Landslide hazard and risk zonation—why is it still so difficult?

  • C.J. van Westen
  • T.W.J. van Asch
  • R. Soeters
Original Paper


The quantification of risk has gained importance in many disciplines, including landslide studies. The literature on landslide risk assessment illustrates the developments which have taken place in the last decade and that quantitative risk assessment is feasible for geotechnical engineering on a site investigation scale and the evaluation of linear features (e.g., pipelines, roads). However, the generation of quantitative risk zonation maps for regulatory and development planning by local authorities still seems a step too far, especially at medium scales (1:10,000–1:50,000). This paper reviews the problem of attempting to quantify landslide risk over larger areas, discussing a number of difficulties related to the generation of landslide inventory maps including information on date, type and volume of the landslide, the determination of its spatial and temporal probability, the modelling of runout and the assessment of landslide vulnerability. An overview of recent developments in the different approaches to landslide hazard and risk zonation at medium scales is given. The paper concludes with a number of new advances and challenges for the future, such as the use of very detailed topographic data, the generation of event-based landslide inventory maps, the use of these maps in spatial-temporal probabilistic modelling and the use of land use and climatic change scenarios in deterministic modelling.


Landslide risk Risk zonation Probabilistic modelling Deterministic modelling 


La quantification des risques a pris de l’importance dans beaucoup de disciplines, y compris dans les études de glissements de terrain. La documentation sur l’évaluation des risques de glissement illustre les développements réalisés durant les derniers dix ans, montrant l’apport de ces approches dans les reconnaissances géologiques de sites et les études de tracés linéaires (e.g., pipelines, routes). Cependant la production de cartes de zonage des risques pour l’aménagement du territoire pour les besoins des autorités locales semble encore un objectif lointain, spécialement pour les échelles intermédiaires (1/10000 à 1/50000). Cet article fait le point sur les essais de quantification des risques de glissements de terrain sur de grandes régions, présentant les différentes difficultés relatives aux inventaires de glissements incluant des données sur la date, le type et le volume du glissement, la détermination des probabilités d’occurrence spatiale et temporelle, la modélisation des propagations de débris et l’évaluation des vulnérabilités. Une vue d’ensemble est présentée concernant les différentes approches du zonage des risques de glissements de terrain aux échelles moyennes. L’article conclut avec diverses avancées récentes et défis pour le futur, tels que l’utilisation de cartes topographiques très détaillées, la production de cartes d’inventaires de glissements, l’utilisation de ce type de cartes dans les modélisations probabilistes et la prise en compte de scénarios relatifs à l’aménagement du territoire et aux changements climatiques dans les modélisations déterministes.

Mots clés

Risque de glissement de terrain Zonage de risque Modélisation probabiliste Modélisation déterministe 



We would like to thank Niek Rengers for the very pleasant cooperation we have had with him during his career at ITC. We appreciate his guidance, support, advice and friendship, and finally also his efforts in commenting on the writing of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • C.J. van Westen
    • 1
  • T.W.J. van Asch
    • 2
  • R. Soeters
    • 1
  1. 1.International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC)EnschedeThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculty of GeosciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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