High-resolution Bayesian mapping of landslide hazard with unobserved trigger event

Thomas Opitz, Haakon Bakka, Raphaël Huser, Luigi Lombardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Statistical models for landslide hazard enable mapping of risk factors and landslide occurrence intensity by using geomorphological covariates available at high spatial resolution. However, the spatial distribution of the triggering event (e.g., precipitation or earthquakes) is often not directly observed. In this paper we develop Bayesian spatial hierarchical models for point patterns of landslide occurrences using different types of log-Gaussian Cox processes. Starting from a competitive baseline model that captures the unobserved precipitation trigger through a spatial random effect at slope unit resolution, we explore novel complex model structures that take clusters of events arising at small spatial scales into account as well as nonlinear or spatially-varying covariate effects. For a 2009 event of around 5000 precipitation-triggered landslides in Sicily, Italy, we show how to fit our proposed models efficiently, using the integrated nested Laplace approximation (INLA), and rigorously compare the performance of our models both from a statistical and applied perspective. In this context we argue that model comparison should not be based on a single criterion and that different models of various complexity may provide insights into complementary aspects of the same applied problem. In our application our models are found to have mostly the same spatial predictive performance, implying that key to successful prediction is the inclusion of a slope-unit resolved random effect capturing the precipitation trigger. Interestingly, a parsimonious formulation of space-varying slope effects reflects a physical interpretation of the precipitation trigger: in subareas with weak trigger, the slope steepness is shown to be mostly irrelevant.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe Annals of Applied Statistics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 19 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-09-14
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank two referees, an Associate Editor and the Editor for many valuable comments that helped improve the quality of the manuscript during the review process.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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