Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 66, Issue 7, pp 1973–1986 | Cite as

Suggestion of a method for landslide early warning using the change in the volumetric water content gradient due to rainfall infiltration

  • Byung-Gon Chae
  • Man-Il KimEmail author
Original Article


An early warning system can be an effective measure to reduce the damage caused by landslides by facilitating the timely evacuation of residents from a landslide-prone area. Early detection of landslide triggering across a broad range of natural terrain types can be accomplished by monitoring rainfall and the physical property changes of soils in real time or near-real time. This study involved the installation of a real-time monitoring system to observe physical property changes in soils in a valley during rainfall events. This monitoring included the measurement of volumetric water content, which was compared with the results of laboratory flume tests to identify landslide indicators in the soils. The response of volumetric water content to rainfall events is more immediate than that of pore-water pressure, and volumetric water content retains its maximum value for some time before slope failure. Therefore, an alternative method for landslide monitoring can be based on the observation of volumetric water content and its changes over time at shallow soil depths. Although no landslide occurred, the field monitoring results showed a directly proportional relationship between the effective cumulative rainfall and the gradient of volumetric water content per unit time (t/t max). This preliminary study thus related slope failure to the volumetric water content gradient as a function of rainfall. Laboratory results showed that a high amount of rainfall and a high gradient of volumetric water content could induce slope failure. Based on these results, it is possible to suggest a threshold value of the volumetric water content gradient demarcating the conditions for slope stability and slope failure. This threshold can thus serve as the basis of an early warning system for landslides considering both rainfall and soil properties.


Landslides Early warning Monitoring Rainfall Volumetric water content 



This study was supported by the Basic Research Project (development of practical technologies for hazard countermeasures for steep slopes and abandoned mine areas) of the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) funded by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy of Korea. This study was also partly supported by the International Research AND Development Program of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) of Korea (Grant number: 2010-00741, FY2010).

Supplementary material

12665_2011_1423_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2487 kb)


  1. Abramson L, Lee T, Sharma S, Boyce G (1996) Slope stability and stabilization methods. Wiley, New York, p 629Google Scholar
  2. Aleotti P (2004) A warning system for rainfall-induced shallow failures. Eng Geol 73:247–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baum RL, Godt JW (2010) Early warning of rainfall-induced shallow landslides and debris flows in the USA. Landslides. doi: 10.1007/s10346-009-0177-0
  4. Baum RL, Godt JW, Harp EL, McKenna JP, McMullen SR (2005) Early warning of landslides for rail traffic between Seattle and Everett, Washington, USA. In: Proceedings of the international conference on landslide risk management, May 30–June 3, Vancouver, Canada, pp 731–740Google Scholar
  5. Borga M, Dalla Fontana G, Ros De, Marchi L (1998) Shallow landslide hazards assessment using a physically based model and digital elevation data. Environ Geol 35:81–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bonnard CH, Noverraz F (2001) Influence of climate change on large landslides: assessment of long term movements and trends. In: Proceedings of the international conference on landslides causes impact and countermeasures, Davos, Switzerland, pp 121–138Google Scholar
  7. Brand EW (1992) Slope instability in tropical areas. In: Proceedings of the VI international symposium on landslides, February 10–14, Christchurch, New Zealand, vol 3, pp 2031–2051Google Scholar
  8. Brand EW, Premchitt J, Phillipson HB (1984) Relationship between rainfall and landslides in Hong Kong. In: Proceedings of the IV international symposium on landslides, September 19–21, Toronto, Canada, vol 1, pp 377–384Google Scholar
  9. Caine N (1980) The rainfall intensity duration control of shallow landslides and debris flows. Geogr Ann 62:23–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Campbell RH (1975) Debris flow originating from soil slip during rainstorm in southern California, Q. Eng Geol 7:339–349Google Scholar
  11. Cannon SH, Ellen SD (1985) Rainfall conditions for abundant debris avalanches, San Francisco Bay region, California. Calif Geol 38:267–272Google Scholar
  12. Capparelli G, Tiranti D (2010) Application of the MoniFLaIR early warning system for rainfall-induced landslides in Piedmont region (Italy). Landslides. doi: 10.1007/s10346-009-0189-9
  13. Chae B-G, Cho Y-C, Song Y-S, Park D (2007) Prediction of landslide probability using a logistic regression model in Korea. In: Proceedings of the international symposium on landslide risk analysis and sustainable disaster management (IPL 2007), January 21–24, Tokyo, Japan, pp 79–83Google Scholar
  14. Chae B-G., Han B-W, Cho Y-C, Seo Y-S (2008) Development of a ubiquitous-based monitoring system for debris flows on natural terrain in Korea. In: Proceedings of 1st world landslide forum, November 18–21, Tokyo, Japan, pp 133–136Google Scholar
  15. Chae B-G, Song Y-S, Seo Y-S, Cho Y-C, Kim W-Y (2006) A test for characteristics on landslides triggering and flow features of debris using a flume test equipment. Kor J Eng Geol 16(3):275–282 (in Korean with English abstract)Google Scholar
  16. Chleborad AF, Baum RL, Godt JW (2008) A prototype system for forecasting landslides in the Seattle, Washington Area. In: Baum RL, Godt JW, Highland LM (eds) Engineering geology and landslides of the Seattle, Washington area: Geol Soc of America reviews in engineering geology. Geol Soc of America, Boulder, pp 103–120Google Scholar
  17. Coe JA, Kinner DA, Godt JW (2008) Initiation conditions for debris flows generated by runoff at Chalk Cliffs, central Colorado. Geomorphology 96:270–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Crosta G (1998) Regionalization of rainfall thresholds: an aid to landslide hazard evaluation. Environ Geol 35:131–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Crosta GB, Frattini P (2003) Distributed modeling of shallow landslides triggered by intense rainfall. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 3:81–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fredlund DG, Rahardjo H (1993) Soil mechanics for unsaturated soils. Wiley, New York, p 517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gardner WR (1958) Some steady state solutions of the unsaturated moisture flow equation with application to evaporation from a water table. Soil Sci 85:228–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Glade T (2000) Modeling landslide-triggering rainfalls in different regions of New Zealand-the soil water status model. Zeitschrift fur Geomorphologie NE 122:63–84Google Scholar
  23. Glade T, Crozier M, Smith P (2000) Applying probability determination to refine landslide-triggering rainfall thresholds using empirical “antecedent daily rainfall model”. Pure Appl Geophys 157:1059–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Guidicini G, Iwasa OY (1977) Tentative correlation between rainfall and landslides in a humid, tropical environment. Bull Int Assoc Eng Geol 16:13–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guzzetti F, Perucacci S, Rossi M, Stark CP (2007) The rainfall thresholds for the initiation of landslides in central and southern Europe. Meteorol Atmos Phys. doi: 10.1007/s00703-007-0262-7
  26. Guezzetti F, Peruccacci S, Rossi M, Stark CP (2008) The rainfall intensity-duration control of shallow landslides and debris flows: an update. Landslides 5:3–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huang C-C, Ju Y-J, Hwu L-K, Lee J-L (2009) Internal soil moisture and piezometric responses to rainfall-induced shallow slope failures. J Hydrol 370:39–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hudak PF (1994) Effective porosity of unconsolidated sand: estimation and impact on capture zone geometry. Environ Geol 24:140–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Huggel C, Khabarov N, Obersteiner M, Ramirez JM (2010) Implementation and integrated numerical modeling of a landslide early warning system: a pilot study in Colombia. Nat Hazards 52:201–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Iverson RM (2000) Landside triggering by rain infiltration. Water Resour Res 30:1897–1910CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jibson RW (1989) Debris flows in southern Puerto Rico. In: Schultz AP, Jibson RW (eds) Landslide processes of the eastern United States and Puerto Rico. Geological Society of America Special Paper 236. Geological Society of America, Boulder, pp 29–55Google Scholar
  32. Keefer DK, Wilson RC, Mark RK, Brabb EE, Brown WM III, Ellen SD, Harp EL, Wieczorek GF, Alger CS, Zatkin RS (1987) Real-time landslide warning during heavy rainfall. Science 238:921–925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kim J-H, Jeong S-S, Park S-W, Sharma J (2004) Influence of rainfall-induced wetting on the stability of slopes in weathered soils. Eng Geol 75:251–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kim M-I, Chae B-G, Han B-W (2008a) Evaluation of infiltration characteristics of rainfall in gneiss weathered soil by a filed monitoring. Kor J Eng Geol 18(4):567–575 (in Korean with English abstract)Google Scholar
  35. Kim M-I, Chae B-G, Nishigaki M (2008b) Evaluation of geotechnical properties of saturated soil using dielectric responses. Geosci J 12(1):83–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kim M-I, Chae B-G, Jeong G-C (2009) Correlation of unsaturated soil and dielectric property for monitoring of subsurface characteristics: development of unsaturated dielectric mixing models and its application. Environ Geol 57:49–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kim M-I, Nishgaki M (2006) Slope failure predicting method using the monitoring of volumetric water content in soil slope. Kor J Eng Geol 16(2):135–143 (in Korean with English abstract)Google Scholar
  38. Kim WY, Lee SR, Kim KS, Chae B-G (1998) Landslide types and susceptibilities related to geomorphic characteristics: Yeonchon–Chulwon area. Kor J Eng Geol 8:115–130 (in Korean with English abstract)Google Scholar
  39. Larsen MC, Simon A (1993) A rainfall intensity-duration threshold relation for landslides in a humid-tropical environment, Puerto Rico. Geogr Ann 75:13–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lourenco SDN, Sassa K, Fukuoka H (2006) Failure process and hydrologic response of a two physical model: Implications for rainfall-induced landslides. Geomorphology 73:115–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marchi L, Arattano M, Deganutti AM (2002) Ten years of debris-flow monitoring in Moscardo Torrent (Italian Alps). Geomorphology 46:1–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. MLTM (2000) Water resources management method development, research report, vol 1. Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, pp 191–222 (in Korean)Google Scholar
  43. Montgomery DR, Dietrich WE (1994) A physically-based model for the topographic control on shallow landsliding. Water Resour Res 30:1153–1171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Montgomery DR, Schmidt KM, Dietrich WE, McKean J (2009) Instrumental record of debris flow initiation during natural rainfall: implications for modeling slope stability. J Geophys Res. doi: 10.1029/2008JF001078
  45. NIDP (2008) Study on the applicability of an early warning system using rainfall data in Korea, Research Report, National Institute for Disaster Prevention, National Emergency Management Agency, p 320 (in Korean)Google Scholar
  46. Park D, Oh J, Park J, Chae B-G (2007) Slope stability related disasters and regulatory countermeasures in the Republic of Korea, IPL 2007 Symposium, January 23, Tokyo, Japan, pp 19–23Google Scholar
  47. Rab MA, Willatt ST, Olsson KA (1987) Hydraulic properties of a duplex soil determined from in situ measurements. Aust J Soil Res 25(1):1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Reid ME, Baum RL, LaHusen RG, Ellis WL (2008) Capturing landslide dynamics and hydrologic triggers using near-real-time monitoring. In: Proceedings of the 10th international symposium on landslides and engineered slopes, June 30–July 4, Xian, China, vol 1, pp 179–191Google Scholar
  49. Sassa K, Fukuoka H, Ochiai H, Wang F, Wang G (2005) Aerial prediction of earthquake and rain induced rapid and long-traveling flow phenomena (APERITIF) (M101), In: Sassa K, Fukuoka H, Wang F, Wang G (eds) Landslides: risk analysis and sustainable disaster management, Springer, Berlin, pp 99–108Google Scholar
  50. Sirangelo B, Braca G (2004) Identification of hazard conditions for mudflow occurrence by hydrological model: application of FLaIR model to Sarno warning system. Eng Geol 73:267–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sirangelo B, Versace P (1996) A real time forecasting model for landslides triggered by rainfall. Meccanica 31:73–85Google Scholar
  52. Sun HW, Wong HN, Ho KKS (1998) Analysis of infiltration in unsaturated ground. In: Proceedings of the annual seminar on slope engineering in Hong Kong, pp 101–109Google Scholar
  53. Stephens DB (1995) Vadose zone hydrology. CRC Press, Boca Raton, p 347Google Scholar
  54. Takara K, Apip, Bagiawan A (2008) Study on early warning system for debris flow and landslide in the Citarum river basin, Indonesia. In: Proceedings of 1st world landslide forum, November 18–21, Tokyo, Japan, pp 573–576Google Scholar
  55. Wang G, Sassa K (2007) On the pore-pressure generation and movement of rainfall-induced landslides in laboratory flume tests. In: Progress in landslide sciences, Springer, Berlin, pp 167–181Google Scholar
  56. Wieczorek GF (1987) Effect of rainfall intensity and duration on debris flows on the central Santa Cruz mountains, California. In: Costa JE, Wieczorek GF (eds) Debris flows/avalanches-processes, recognition, and mitigation. Rev Eng Geol 7. Geol Soc of America, Boulder, pp 93–104Google Scholar
  57. Wieczorek GF, Morgan BA, Campbell RH (2000) Debris-flow hazards in the Blue Ridge of central Virgina. Environ Eng Geosci 6:3–23Google Scholar
  58. Wilson RC, Jayko AS (1997) Preliminary maps showing rainfall thresholds for debris-flow activity, San Francisco Bay region, California, US Geological Survey Open-File Report 97-745FGoogle Scholar
  59. Xie M, Esaki T, Cai M (2004) A time-space based approach for mapping rainfall-induced shallow landslide hazard. Environ Geol 46:840–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geological Environment DivisionKorea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral ResourcesDaejeonKorea
  2. 2.The Institute of Infrastructure SafetyKorea Infrastructure Safety and Technology CorporationGoyangKorea

Personalised recommendations