Landslide precipitation thresholds in Rwanda

Judith Uwihirwe*, Markus Hrachowitz, Thom A. Bogaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Regional empirical-statistical thresholds indicating the precipitation conditions initiating landslides are of crucial importance for landslide early warning system development. The objectives of this research were to use landslide and precipitation data in an empirical-statistical approach to (1) identify precipitation-related variables with the highest explanatory power for landslide occurrence and (2) define both trigger and trigger-cause based thresholds for landslides in Rwanda, Central-East Africa. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) and area under the curve (AUC) metrics were used to test the suitability of a suite of precipitation-related explanatory variables. A Bayesian probabilistic approach, maximum true skill statistics and the minimum radial distance were used to determine the most informative threshold levels above which landslide are high likely to occur. The results indicated that the event precipitation volumes E, cumulative 1-day rainfall (RD1) that coincide with the day of landslide occurrence and 10-day antecedent precipitation are variables with the highest discriminatory power to distinguish landslide from no landslide conditions. The highest landslide prediction capability in terms of true positive alarms was obtained from single rainfall variables based on trigger-based thresholds. However, that predictive capability was constrained by the high rate of false positive alarms and thus the elevated probability to neglect the contribution of additional causal factors that lead to the occurrence of landslides and which can partly be accounted for by the antecedent precipitation indices. Further combination of different variables into trigger-cause pairs and the use of suitable thresholds in bilinear format improved the prediction capacity of the real trigger-based thresholds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2469-2481
Number of pages13
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Landslide
  • Precipitation thresholds
  • Trigger-based thresholds
  • Trigger-cause-based thresholds


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