Abstract

Abstract

More frequent more intense storms predicted by climate models for the Pacific Northwest of North America could increase the regional landslide hazard. The impacts of one such storm are examined on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, during which 626 mapped landslides occurred, encompassing >5 km2 total area and generating >1.5 × 106 m3 of sediment. The relationship between rainfall intensity, air temperature and wind speed obtained from mesoscale numerical weather modelling is examined relative to landslide incidence within steep terrain. A critical onset of rainfall intensity between 80 and 100 mm in 24 h that results in a rapid increase in landslides with increasing precipitation is demonstrated. The argument is presented that this result is more useful for landslide management decisions than a minimum threshold. The component of wind-driven rain was calculated, and results indicated that wind caused increased concentrations of rainfall associated with the occurrence of landslides. Approximately half the landslides studied were not related to rainfall alone, but to rain on snow, and we argue that wind played a crucial role. This often neglected component of hydrological analysis remains a major challenge as the role of snow transition zones and a warming climate in coastal mountain watersheds is considered.

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