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Odin Marc
Romulo A. Jucá Oliveira
Marielle Gosset
Robert Emberson
, and
Jean-Philippe Malet


Rainfall-induced landsliding is a global and systemic hazard that is likely to increase with the projections of increased frequency of extreme precipitation with current climate change. However, our ability to understand and mitigate landslide risk is strongly limited by the availability of relevant rainfall measurements in many landslide prone areas. In the last decade, global satellite multisensor precipitation products (SMPP) have been proposed as a solution, but very few studies have assessed their ability to adequately characterize rainfall events triggering landsliding. Here, we address this issue by testing the rainfall pattern retrieved by two SMPPs (IMERG and GSMaP) and one hybrid product [Multi-Source Weighted-Ensemble Precipitation (MSWEP)] against a large, global database of 20 comprehensive landslide inventories associated with well-identified storm events. We found that, after converting total rainfall amounts to an anomaly relative to the 10-yr return rainfall R *, the three products do retrieve the largest anomaly (of the last 20 years) during the major landslide event for many cases. However, the degree of spatial collocation of R * and landsliding varies from case to case and across products, and we often retrieved R * > 1 in years without reported landsliding. In addition, the few (four) landslide events caused by short and localized storms are most often undetected. We also show that, in at least five cases, the SMPP’s spatial pattern of rainfall anomaly matches landsliding less well than does ground-based radar rainfall pattern or lightning maps, underlining the limited accuracy of the SMPPs. We conclude on some potential avenues to improve SMPPs’ retrieval and their relation to landsliding.

Significance Statement

Rainfall-induced landsliding is a global hazard that is expected to increase as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Our ability to understand and mitigate this hazard is strongly limited by the lack of rainfall measurements in mountainous areas. Here, we perform the first global assessment of the potential of three high-resolution precipitation datasets, derived from satellite observations, to capture the rainfall characteristics of 20 storms that led to widespread landsliding. We find that, accounting for past extreme rainfall statistics (i.e., the rainfall returning every 10 years), most storms causing landslides are retrieved by the datasets. However, the shortest storms (i.e., ∼3 h) are often undetected, and the detailed spatial pattern of extreme rainfall often appears to be distorted. Our work opens new ways to study global landslide hazard but also warns against overinterpreting rainfall derived from satellites.

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Thomas Stanley
Dalia B. Kirschbaum
George J. Huffman
, and
Robert F. Adler


Long-term precipitation records are vital to many applications, especially the study of extreme events. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) has served this need, but TRMM’s successor mission, Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM), does not yet provide a long-term record. Quantile mapping, the conversion of values across paired empirical distributions, offers a simple, established means to approximate such long-term statistics but only within appropriately defined domains. This method was applied to a case study in Central America, demonstrating that quantile mapping between TRMM and GPM data maintains the performance of a real-time landslide model. Use of quantile mapping could bring the benefits of the latest satellite-based precipitation dataset to existing user communities, such as those for hazard assessment, crop forecasting, numerical weather prediction, and disease tracking.

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