Probabilistic thresholds for landslides warning by integrating soil moisture conditions with rainfall thresholds

Binru Zhao, Qiang Dai*, Dawei Han, Huichao Dai, Jingqiao Mao, Lu Zhuo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


Various methods have been proposed to define the rainfall thresholds for the landslide prediction. Once the threshold is determined, it remains the same regardless of the antecedent soil moisture conditions. However, given the important role of the antecedent soil moisture in the initiation of landslides, it is considered if the rainfall threshold level varies according to the antecedent soil moisture conditions, the prediction performance will be improved. Therefore, in this study we propose a probabilistic threshold to integrate antecedent soil moisture conditions with rainfall thresholds. In order to take into account the conditions with landslides and without landslides, the Bayesian analysis is applied to estimate the landslide occurrence probability given the various combinations of two factors: the antecedent soil moisture and the severity of the recent rainfall event. These combinations are then divided into conditions that are likely to trigger landslides and those unlikely to trigger landslides by comparing their probabilities with a critical value. In this way, the probabilistic threshold is determined. Here the soil moisture is estimated using the distributed hydrological model, and the severity of the rainfall event is characterized by the cumulated event rainfall-rainfall duration (ED) thresholds with different exceedance probabilities. The proposed approach was applied to a sub-region of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. The results show that the probabilistic threshold has a better prediction performance than the ED rainfall threshold, especially in terms of reducing false alarms. This study provides an effective approach to improve the prediction capability of the ED rainfall threshold, benefiting its application in the landslide prediction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-287
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Early online date19 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • Landslides warning
  • Probabilistic thresholds
  • Rainfall thresholds
  • Soil moisture


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