17 June 2016

Review of a paper: fatal landslides in Europe

Posted by dr-dave

Review of a paper: fatal landslides in Europe

In a paper just published in the journal Landslides, Haque et al (2016) present an analysis of fatal landslides in Europe between 1995 and 2014.  This is an interesting piece of work that sits nicely alongside the work that I have published on worldwide landslide losses Petley (2012) and in Latin America (Sepulveda and Petley 2015).  In this period the authors have recorded a total of 476 landslides causing losses of 1370 people, with a further 784 injuries.  The paper deserves careful reading as it contians a great deal of information, of which I will pick out just two elements.

First, the paper includes a map of landslide losses over this period, organised by 5 year blocks:

fatal landslides in Europe

The spatial distribution of fatal landslides in Europe, from Haque et al. (2016)

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As expected, the spatial distribution of fatal landslides is very heterogeneous, with a higher concentration in Iceland, the Alps, the Apennines of Italy and in Turkey.  France has surprisingly few, Spain a fairly even scattering.  Much of the rest of the Europe has a small number.  The location of the landslides of course reflects the distribution of mountain areas, and in particular those with seismicity.  This is consistent with my earlier studies.

Second, perhaps the most surprising element of this study though is the data on the trend in landslide occurrence with time.  This is the graph presented in the paper:-

fatal landslide in Europe

The annual number of landslides, and landslide losses, for fatal landslides in Europe, from Haque et al. (2014)

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The trend is clearly upwards over time, sharply so in terms of the number of landslides from about 2009 onwards, with a significant increase in losses as well.  This was not clear in my global data, and we did not see this trend in Latin America either, so this is a very interesting result.  Haque et al. (2016) suggest that the increase is primarily the result of large numbers of fatal landslides in Italy and Turkey (see the red triangles on the map above) and in the Balkan countries.  The cause of this change is not clear, but the authors note that most of these landslides occurred in mountain regions with a humid temperate climate.  This hints at a possible role of climate change.

Overall this is a very valuable study that is extremely welcome.  It would be good to see a similar study for East Asia and for South Asia now as well.  I hope that this database will be maintained.

References

Haque, U. et al. 2016. Fatal landslides in Europe.  Landslide. Doi: 10.1007/s10346-016-0689-3

Sepúlveda, S.A. and Petley, D.N. 2015. Regional trends and controlling factors of fatal landslides in Latin America and the Caribbean. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 15, 1821-1833, doi: 10.5194/nhess-15-1821-2015.

Petley, D.N. 2012. Global patterns of loss of life from landslides. Geology 40 (10), 927-930.