2023 journal article

Forecasting landslides using community detection on geophysical satellite data

Physical Review E.

co-author countries: United States of America πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
Source: ORCID
Added: July 7, 2023

As a result of extreme weather conditions, such as heavy precipitation, natural hillslopes can fail dramatically; these slope failures can occur on a dry day, due to time lags between rainfall and pore-water pressure change at depth, or even after days to years of slow motion. While the prefailure deformation is sometimes apparent in retrospect, it remains challenging to predict the sudden transition from gradual deformation (creep) to runaway failure. We use a network science method-multilayer modularity optimization-to investigate the spatiotemporal patterns of deformation in a region near the 2017 Mud Creek, California landslide. We transform satellite radar data from the study site into a spatially embedded network in which the nodes are patches of ground and the edges connect the nearest neighbors, with a series of layers representing consecutive transits of the satellite. Each edge is weighted by the product of the local slope (susceptibility to failure) measured from a digital elevation model and ground surface deformation (current rheological state) from interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR). We use multilayer modularity optimization to identify strongly connected clusters of nodes (communities) and are able to identify both the location of Mud Creek and nearby creeping landslides which have not yet failed. We develop a metric, i.e., community persistence, to quantify patterns of ground deformation leading up to failure, and find that this metric increased from a baseline value in the weeks leading up to Mud Creek's failure. These methods hold promise as a technique for highlighting regions at risk of catastrophic failure.