Surface temperature controls the pattern of post-earthquake landslide activity

Marco Loche, Gianvito Scaringi, Ali P. Yunus, Filippo Catani, Hakan Tanyaş, William Frodella, Xuanmei Fan, Luigi Lombardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The patterns and controls of the transient enhanced landsliding that follows strong earthquakes remain elusive. Geostatistical models can provide clues on the underlying processes by identifying relationships with a number of physical variables. These models do not typically consider thermal information, even though temperature is known to affect the hydro-mechanical behavior of geomaterials, which, in turn, controls slope stability. Here, we develop a slope unit-based multitemporal susceptibility model for the epicentral region of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake to explore how land surface temperature (LST) relates to landslide patterns over time. We find that LST can explain post-earthquake landsliding while it has no visible effect on the coseismic scene, which is dominated by the strong shaking. Specifically, as the landscape progressively recovers and landslide rates decay to pre-earthquake levels, a positive relationship between LST and landslide persistence emerges. This seems consistent with the action of healing processes, capable of restoring the thermal sensitivity of the slope material after the seismic disturbance. Although analyses in other contexts (not necessarily seismic) are warranted, we advocate for the inclusion of thermal information in geostatistical modeling as it can help form a more physically consistent picture of slope stability controls.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 19 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-05-25
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): URF/1/4338-01-01
Acknowledgements: This work was financially supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (GAČR; Grant No. 20-28853Y), the Fund for international mobility of researchers at Charles University (MSCA-IF IV; Project No. CZ.02.2.69/0.0 /0.0/20_079/0017987), the Charles University Grant Agency (GAUK; Project No. 337121), and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia (Grant No. URF/1/4338-01-01). The authors are grateful to the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive input.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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