Abstract

Dealing with predicted increases in extreme weather conditions due to climate change requires robust knowledge about controls on rainfall-triggered landslides. We explore relationships between rainfall and landslide size throughout the Japanese archipelago. We test whether the total volume of landslides can be predicted directly from rainfall totals, intensity, and duration using a nationwide inventory of 4744 rainfall-triggered landslides recorded from A.D. 2001 to 2011. We find that larger landslides were more abundant at the expense of smaller ones when total, maximum, and mean rainfall intensity exceeded ∼250 mm, ∼35 mm/h, and ∼4 mm/h, respectively. Frequency distributions of these rainfall parameters are peaked and heavily skewed. Yet neither the most frequent nor the most extreme values of these rainfall metrics coincide consistently with the maximum landslide volumes. A striking decrease of landslide volumes at both mean and maximum rainfall intensity, as well as duration, points to an exhaustion in hillslope geomorphic response regardless of sample size, landslide type, mobilized volume, dominant lithology, or reporting bias. Our results underscore substantial offsets between the peaks of rainfall metrics and maximum associated landslide volumes, thus complicating straightforward estimates of geomorphic work from metrics of rainstorm magnitude or frequency. Only the rainfall total appears to be a suitable monotonic predictor of landslide volumes mobilized during typhoons and frontal storms.

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