Improving Landslide Susceptibility Assessments to Protect California’s Transportation Infrastructure

Research Lead: Shabnam J. Semnani

UC Campus(es): UC San Diego

Problem Statement: Climate change increases the risk of droughts, wildfires, washouts and landslides, which pose a major threat to the state’s transportation infrastructure. Despite developments in landslide susceptibility mapping and hazard assessment, accurate landslide forecasting remains a major challenge, mainly due to the complexity of landslide triggering mechanisms and insufficient real-time measurements of surface conditions, groundwater conditions, and soil and rock properties. In addition, little work has been done to capture complex climate change effects in landslide susceptibility assessments. Therefore, there is an immediate need for robust landslide susceptibility assessment tools and maps which reflect current conditions and can be used to assess the potential vulnerability of California’s transportation infrastructure.

Project Description: This project investigates the effects of climate change, including changes in precipitation patterns and wildfire-induced vegetation loss, on landslide susceptibility in California over the next few decades. The research team will first develop a novel data-driven framework to improve rainfall-triggered landslide susceptibility assessments using a wide range of publicly available datasets and machine learning techniques and will discuss how the framework can be extended to assess the susceptibility of washouts. The framework will be applied along with precipitation and wildfire projections to produce landslide susceptibility maps for California under current conditions as well as future climate scenarios. Subsequently, the research team will compare these maps to investigate the effects of climate change on landslide susceptibilities across the state. The landslide susceptibility maps will also be used to identify California roads and highways which may be subject to increased and/or significant landslide potential to inform decision making, planning and risk management efforts.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $75,908

Project Partner(s): Caltrans