14 August 2010

An extraordinary year for landslides in China

Posted by Dave Petley

This morning has brought further reports of heavy rain and consequent landslides in China, with more downpours forecast for the next few days.  Meanwhile the recovery operations for the Shouqu landslide continue, marked by a national day of mourning for the victims.  Note that the cost of the landslide at Shouqu is now reported to be 1239 people, with 505 still missing. 

The landslides in China this year are interesting for both their frequency and their intensity.  On average China has the largest number of fatal landslides of any country in the world, but this year has been particularly serious.  Based upon the database of fatal landslides that I have been maintaining for the last 8 years, the graph below shows the cumulative recorded number of non-seismic landslides that resulted in fatalities for the last five years in China.  The x-axis is the day number in the year (i.e. 1st January = 1; 31st December = 365).

Even before the Shouqu landslide disaster the number of fatality inducing landslides this year was running far above the normal level for the previous four years, and already the total has exceeded the annual totals of all the previous years.  This is despite a low impact of landfalling typhoons so far this year (this is unlikely to remain the case to year end).

The Beijing Climate Center produces daily maps of global precipitation anomaly for the last thirty days.  This is the latest version covering the last 30 days:


The most obvious aspects of these maps is actually the extraordinary drought in western Russia, but note also
that the high level of rainfall in northern Pakistan and in Central Europe appears.  Much of China shows rainfall well above the norm.