ABSTRACT

In mountainous terrain, large earthquakes often cause widespread coseismic landsliding as well as hydrological and hydrogeological disturbances. A subsequent transient phase with high landslide rates has also been reported for several earthquakes. Separately, subsurface seismic velocities are frequently observed to drop coseismically and subsequently recover. Consistent with various laboratory work, we hypothesize that the seismic‐velocity changes track coseismic damage and progressive recovery of landscape substrate, which modulate landslide hazard and hydrogeological processes, on timescales of months to years. To test this, we analyze the near‐surface seismic‐velocity variations, obtained with single‐station high‐frequency (0.5–4 Hz) passive image interferometry, in the epicentral zones of four shallow earthquakes, for which constraints on landslide susceptibility through time exist. In the case of the 1999 Chi‐Chi earthquake, detailed landslide mapping allows us to accurately constrain an exponential recovery of landslide susceptibility with a relaxation timescale of about 1 yr, similar to the pattern of recovery of seismic velocities. The 2004 Niigata, 2008 Iwate, and 2015 Gorkha earthquakes have less‐resolved constraints on landsliding, but, assuming an exponential recovery, we also find matching relaxation timescales, from 0.1 to 0.6  yr, for the landslide and seismic recoveries. These observations support our hypothesis and suggest that systematic monitoring of seismic velocities after large earthquakes may help constrain and manage the evolution of landslide hazard in epicentral areas. To achieve this goal, we end by discussing several ways to improve the link between seismic velocity and landscape mechanical properties, specifically by better constraining time‐dependent near‐surface strength and hydrogeological changes. Hillslopes displaying coseismic surface fissuring and displacement may be an important target for future geotechnical analysis and coupled to passive geophysical investigations.

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