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The Rainfall Intensity: Duration Control of Shallow Landslides and Debris Flows

Author(s): Nel Caine


Source: Geografiska Annaler. Series A, Physical Geography, Vol. 62, No. 1/2 (1980), pp. 23-
27
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/520449
Accessed: 11-08-2017 11:59 UTC

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THE RAINFALL INTENSITY - DURATION CONTROL
OF SHALLOW LANDSLIDES AND DEBRIS
FLOWS

BY
NEL CAINE

Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research, University of Colorado

observations
Caine, Nel, 1980: The rainfall intensity-duration of the rainfall intensities and dura-
control of
shallow landslides and debris flows. Geogr. Ann. tions at which debris flow activity has occurred
62 A (1-2): 23-27.
on relatively undisturbed slopes (Table 1). Table
ABSTRACT. Published records of the rainfall intensities and 1, which is undoubtedly incomplete, includes 73
durations associated with shallow landsliding and debris estimates for slopes that have not been modified
flow
activity suggests a limiting threshold for this type of slope
by construction, agriculture or stream erosion at
instability. The limit has the general form:
their base. These data come from many climatic
I = 14.82 D-0.39 zones, from different geologic and topographic
environments (generally from mountainous ter-
and is best defined for rainfall durations between 10 minutes
rain) and must have involved a variety of an-
and 10 days.
tecedent moisture conditions in the failed mate-
rial. Further, the precipitation records from
Introduction which they are derived are not consistent: gauge
types differ; the precision of observation varies,
The effect of rainfall in producing shallow (less
and the distance from gauge to the site of insta-
than 2 or 3 meters deep) landslide and debris
bility also changes. For all these reasons, the
flow activity is an obvious one, though one that
pooling of these records may be questioned.
is difficult to define precisely (e.g. Blong &
Nevertheless, an amalgamation is performed
Dunkerley 1976). This difficulty arises because
here and seems justified pragmatically by the
rainfall only influences slope stability indirectly,
results.
through its effect on pore water conditions in the
slope material, and because its influence requires
an interaction with other characteristics of the Results
waste mantle. A further difficulty arises from the
Figure 1 is a plot of the data in Table 1 and
fact that slope instability, however induced, rep-
suggests a general threshold for shallow insta-
resents a discontinuity or threshold condition
bility in terms of rainfall intensity and duration.
(Schumm 1973), one that has led to the use of
This is shown as a limiting curve which has the
terms like 'critical rainfall' or 'triggering in-
form:
fluence'.
I = 14.82 D-?39 (1)
This note is an attempt to define in a general
in which I is the rainfall intens
way the rainfall threshold for catastrophic slope
the duration of rainfall (hr).
failures of the debris flow type (in which the
This may also be stated in terms
initial failure is frequently a shallow planar slide
and duration (D) of rainfall:
which rapidly disintegrates to become a flow). It
starts from the premise that such a threshold dis= 14.82 D.61 (la)
not defined by the total depth of rainfall nor by
an instantaneous rainfall intensity but by a pro- As a generalisation, this threshold seems to be
duct of these two (Starkel 1979). reasonable one for time periods between 10 mi-
nutes and 10 days (i.e. across more than 3 orders
of magnitude). At shorter and longer durations,
Procedure the limit does not fit so well. The lack of fit at
very short durations may be explained by the
The data base has been derived from published

Geografiska Annaler 62 A (1980) 1-2 23

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NEL CAINE

Table 1 516 37 13.96 Pellegrini (1979)


Debris flows due to rai infall
157 48 3.27 Rice & Foggin (1971)
320 49 6.53 Curry (1966)
Rainfall Duration Mean Source
175 72 2.43 Rapp (1960)
Intensity
472 72 6.56 de Meis & da Silva (1968)
(mm) (hr) (mm hr- 1)
500 72 6.94 Starkel (1972)
2.3 0.02 138 Gil (in Starkel 1976)
484 72 6.72 Jones (1973)
1.0 0.02 60 Starkel (1972)
254 96 2.65 Campbell (1975)
5.0 0.17 30 Suwa et al. (1973)
5.0 0.17 30 Iveronova (in Starkel 1976) 282 96 2.94 Rice & Foggin (1971)
254 120 2.12 Rayner & Soons (1965)
30 0.5 60 Rapp & Stromquist (1976)
50 1.0 50 Curry (1966)
500 120 4.17 Rice et al. (1969)
802 192 4.18 Rice & Foggin (1971)
13 1.0 13 Caine (1976)
460 288 1.60 Bailey (in Rice, 1977)
15 1.0 15 Suwa et al. (1973)
534 720 0.74 Pellegrini (1979)
40 1.0 40 Pippan (1974)
40 1.0 40 Kotarba (1977)
435 744 0.58 Thiel & Zabuski (1979)
1346 840 1.60 Rice & Foggin (1971)
30 1.0 30 Starkel (1960)
100 1.0 100 LaMarche (1968)
750 1464 0.51 Thiel & Zabuski (1979)
703 2208 0.32 Rapp & Stromquist (1976)
30 1.0 30 Temple & Rapp (1972)
17 1.0 17 Gerlach (1966)
29 1.0 29 Jackson (1966)
44 1.0 44 Pellegrini (1979) fact that such rainfalls give an insufficient depth
40 1.0 40 Starkel (1972)
125 1.0 125 Wentworth (1943)
of water to change pore water conditions in the
52 1.0 52 Starkel (1970) soil. At long durations, the poor fit seems likely
102 1.0 102 Bogucki (1976) to be due to the presence, within such a long
64 1.0 64 Selby (1976) period, of rainfall intensities greatly in excess of
52 1.0 52 Selby (1976)
the mean intensity.
85 1.0 85 Selby (1976)
102 3.0 34 Temple & Rapp (1972) Eight of the observations shown in Figure 1
44.5 3.5 12.7 Rapp & Stromquist (1976) fall below the critical intensity-duration curve of
218 3.5 62.3 Jones (1973) Equation (1) but are not thought sufficient to
51 4.0 12.8 Rayner & Soons (1965) warrant revision of the curve. Seven of these
200 4.0 50 Starkel (1970)
762 4.5 169 Hack & Goodlett (1960)
cases are accounted for as either minimum
200 6 33.3 Orr (1973) intensity estimates (i.e. they were reported as an
240 6 40 Jones(1973) intensity 'greater than ..... ') or as mean inten-
51 8 6.4 Campbell (1975)
sities for periods of more than 10 days. The final
150 10 15 Balog (1978)
200 10 20 Balog (1978) exception comes from my own work and is
250 10 25 Balog (1978) case which involved rainfall onto melting snow.
125 12 10.4 Campbell (1974) This observation was made in an environment in
190 15 12.7 Selby (1976)
320 18 17.8 Jones (1973)
which snowmelt could supply water to the soil at
150 24 6.25 Selby (1976) rates up to 4 mm hr-1, i.e. much more than the
180 24 7.5 Selby (1976) apparent rainfall deficit.
300 24 12.5 Starkel (1976)
150 24 6.25 Rice et al. (1969)
152 24 6.33 Swanston (1970)
Conclusion
127 24 5.29 Swanston (1969)
178 24 7.42 Balteanu (1976) These results allow a fairly simple definition of
425 24 17.7 Haldemann (1956) the rainfall necessary to provoke shallow insta-
401 24 16.7 So (1971)
465 24 19.4 Starkel (1970)
bility on undisturbed slopes. As such, they have
686 24 28.6 Williams & Guy (1971) two applications. First, they define more precise-
150 24 6.25 Baird & Lewis (1957) ly than has been possible previously an impor-
245 24 10.21 Curry (1966) tant extrinsic geomorphic threshold (Schumm
107 24 4.46 Rapp (1960)
132 24 5.5 Jackson (1966)
1973). This definition is based upon failures
715 24 30 Starkel (1972) which have occurred with the minimum rainfall
202 24 8.42 Tricart et al. (1961) input, i.e. presumably under the most favorable

Figure 1. Rainfall Intensities and Durations Associated with Slope Failures. The lower curve shown here is the threshold:
I = 14.82 D-0.39 with I = rainfall intensity (mm hr-~) and D = rainfall duration (hr). The upper curve is the global maximum
precipitation intensities: I = 388 D -0514 (after Jennings, 1950). Plotted data points are from Table 1.

24 Geografiska Annaler - 62 A (1980) ?1-2

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THE RAINFALL INTENSITY

INTENSITY (mm/hr)
0 0
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0 0

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F

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Geografiska Annaler ? 62 A (1980) 1-2 25

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NEL CAINE

intrinsic conditions, and so is not dependent


Gerlach, T., 1966: Wspolczesny rozwoj stokow w dorzeczu
upon material factors. The latter act to raisegornego
local Grajcarka. Prace Geograf. 52. 110 pp.
Hack, J. T. & Goodlett, J. C., 1960: Geomorphology and
thresholds, through material resistances, above
forest ecology of a mountain region in the central Appala-
that defined here. chians. U.S. Geol. Survey Prof. Pap. 347. 66 pp.
Second, the estimated threshold may be ap- Haldemann, E. G., 1956: Recent landslide phenomena in the
Rungwe volcanic area, Tanganyika. Tanganyika Notes &
plied to the quantitative evaluation of natural Records 45:3-14.
hazards associated with shallow landslides and
Iveronova, M. I., 1962: Activity of periodic creeks in high
debris flows. In this context, the intensity-du-
mountain surrounding of the Issyk-kul Basin. (in Russian)
ration relationship may be translated to an ap-Trudy Inst. Geograph. Acad. Sci. U.S.S.R. 81:30-57.
Jackson, R. J., 1966: Slips in relation to rainfall and soil
proximate recurrence interval (or probability) by
characteristics. Jour. Hydrol. (N. Z.) 5:45-53.
combining it with the standard intensity-dura-
Jennings, A. H., 1950: World's greatest observed point rain-
tion-frequency curves for the area of interest.fall. Monthly Weather Rev. 78:4-5.
The result will be a minimum recurrence interval Jones, A., 1973: Landslides of Rio de Janeiro and the Serra das

(since it is based upon an implicit assumption of Araras escarpment, Brazil. U.S. Geol. Survey Prof. Pap.
697. 42 pp.
optimal material conditions for failure at all Kotarba, A., 1977: Traits dynamiques des versants de la haute
times) but, in most applications, this would give montagne dans les Tatras Polonaises. Studia Geomorph.
areasonable margin of safety, e.g. where dis- Carpatho-Balcanica 9:177-187.
LaMarche, V. C., 1968: Rates of slope degradation as deter-
turbance of the slope is planned.
mined from botanical evidence, White Mountains, Cali-
fornia. U.S. Geol. Survey Prof. Pap. 352; I: 341-377.
de Meis, R. M. & da Silva R., 1968: Mouvements de masse
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which this note is based and apologise for any Technical Report RM-2, 12 pp.
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Nel Caine, Institute of Arctic & Alpine Re- Pippan, T., 1974: Die Bedeutung meteorologischer Faktoren
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Geografiska Annaler- 62 A (1980) 1-2 27

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