We’re saved! Landslides won’t increase from climate change/global warming

From CARDIFF UNIVERSITY and the “global warming is not omnipotent after all” department comes this press release that makes me wonder if academics lay awake at night trying to think up new climate change possibilities.

landslide-goodell-creek

Goodell Creek, Washington Image: Wikepedia

Climate change to have ‘little effect’ on common landslides

New study suggests the frequency of landslides in storm-affected areas will not increase as a result of climate change

The frequency of common landslides is not likely to increase as a result of more rainstorms brought about by future climate change, new research from Cardiff University has shown.

Experts at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences have shown that while the frequency of rainstorms may increase by up to 10% according to climate change projections, this would produce a long-term increase in shallow landslide frequency of less than 0.5%.

Shallow landslides are the most common type of landslide and are often caused by heavy rainfall. They occur through the collapse of soil, resulting in fast moving debris flows of rock and mud that present a very dangerous hazard to anything in their path.

The new findings, which have been published in the journal Scientific Reports, challenges current theories within the field which suggest that landslide activity could increase proportionally with increased rainfall.

Instead, the research findings show that the triggering of landslides is much more dependent on the build-up of soil – otherwise known as colluvium – on steep hillslopes, as opposed to rainfall from storms.

The research team arrived at their results by performing field investigations in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, specifically looking at how the time taken for soil to accumulate on hillslopes affected the landslide triggering rate. The team then used computer models to calculate how future landslide hazards may develop as a result of climate change.

According to the researchers, shallow landslides occur when soil slowly accumulates on a mountainside over a very long time period, from thousands to tens of thousands of years. During a storm, converging ground water flow and the infiltration of rain into the colluvium causes landslides to be triggered.

It then takes thousands of years for soil to accumulate once again on the mountainside before a landslide can occur again, so an increase in the frequency of storms during this time would have little effect on the frequency of landslides.

Lead author of the study Dr Rob Parker, from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: “Our results have shown that lots more storms result in very few extra landslides. Though observations tell us that heavy rainfall triggers landslides, it is the process of soil accumulation that happens in the thousands of years leading up to a landslide that can be really important in determining how often landslides occur.

“Though we still expect shallow landslides to continue to be a major hazard in our future wetter climate, we do not expect the frequency of landslides to increase in proportion to the frequency of extreme precipitation events.”

“Landslides pose a major hazard to life and infrastructure, affecting around 12% of the world’s population who live in mountain ranges,” Dr Parker continued.

“In addition to the direct hazard they pose, landslides are the primary source of sediment in mountain ranges, with significant knock-on effects on river, floodplain and estuarine systems, as well as playing an important role in global biogeochemical cycles.

“The consequences of landslides are therefore wide-reaching, so it’s vital that we get a better understanding of how they may evolve under future climate conditions.”

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28 thoughts on “We’re saved! Landslides won’t increase from climate change/global warming

  1. If CO2 can acidify sea water, then surely it can acidify rainfall as well.
    Wouldn’t all that acidic water just melt the mountains away, then we wouldn’t have to worry about landslides at all?

    • It most certainly could (and does!) when your mountain is made of limestone. For silicate mountains, not so much.

  2. ….The new findings, which have been published in the journal Scientific Reports, challenges current theories within the field which suggest that landslide activity could increase proportionally with increased rainfall.

    Instead, the research findings show that the triggering of landslides is much more dependent on the build-up of soil – otherwise known as colluvium – on steep hillslopes, as opposed to rainfall from storms.

    The research team arrived at their results by performing field investigations in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, specifically looking at how the time taken for soil to accumulate on hillslopes affected the landslide triggering rate. The team then used computer models to calculate how future landslide hazards may develop as a result of climate change…

    Er…right. So, what they are saying is that this is a research team with expertise in measuring soil accumulation on hillsides, and they have found that soil accumulation on hillsides is the big threat, not rainfall (and needs further investigation).

    Why do I think that if the team had expertise in measuring rainfall on hillsides instead then the findings would have been reversed…?

  3. Nicely done Cardiff Uni – got an all expenses paid junket to the USA to research a complete non-problem. Presumably the professors and research students all got a nice tan?

    • Well they may have been subjected to near fatal changes in temperature when travelling from Cardiff to the Southern Appalachians. They money they got was just hazard pay.

  4. As with so much else in this “science” (rainfall, major hurricane frequency etc), simple long-term statistics – raw data from reliable long-term sources – would be all that you need to prove or disprove that CO2 concentration increase is indeed causing changes in such parameters. See Paul Homewood’s Notalotofpeopleknowthat site for seemingly unchanging long-term UK weather trends ad nauseam.
    So, my amazing guess for landslides over the past 200 years? No statistically significant change. My, that would be another shocking result for alarmists.

  5. 12% of the world’s population who live in mountain ranges,”….

    ,,,which brings it down to .00001%

    Can we file this away in the Idon’tgiveacrap file?…. ;)

  6. This seems to be good news. Apparently 14,000 people are killed each year by landslides, so it is not a trivial matter.

      • Most serious analysis predicts I will not disappear until 2040, and then only during the summer minimum. Even then I will still linger in the corners. I will be around for a while yet :)

    • Seaice – “14,000 people are killed each year by landslides”? Does this include or are more are killed in ‘Rockslides’? You know, like when water freezes and breaks out chunks of rock, which fall down. Seen a lot more of these than mud flows.

    • Try this on for size, seaice1:

      http://ihrrblog.org/2010/11/25/how-many-people-die-from-landslides/

      Or how about Nature:

      http://www.nature.com/news/death-toll-from-landslides-vastly-underestimated-1.11140 “Petley reports that landslides tend to occur during the Northern Hemisphere summer and autumn, when monsoons strike eastern and southern Asia and hurricanes and typhoons slam Central America, islands of the Caribbean and land bordering the northwestern Pacific Ocean.”

      “And finally, the interval that Petley studied did not contain an extended El Niño — a climate pattern that usually increases the number of hurricanes striking the Caribbean and Central America, and can therefore dramatically boost occurrences of fatal landslides.”

      “But David Petley, a geographer at the International Landslide Centre at Durham University, UK, has compiled his own global database using government statistics, aid-agency reports and research papers. Writing in Geology1, he reports that between 2004 and 2010, 2,620 fatal landslides killed a total of 32,322 people. That figure excludes landslides triggered by earthquakes, and comes in at a little more than half the total number of people killed by floods, which claimed more than 7,600 lives annually between 1990 and 2006. Wildfires, by comparison, slayed 47 people per year, on average, between those dates.” I would argue that about 32 thousand people killed over seven years is a lot less than 14 thousand per year.

      Of course, it’s a real problem in the U.S. according to the USGS:

      “How many deaths result from landslides?
      An average of between 25 and 50 people are killed by landslides each year in the United States. The worldwide death toll per year due to landslides is in the thousands. Most landslide fatalities are from rock fall, debris-flows, or volcanic debris flows (called lahars). Debris flows occurring in December, 2003, killed 16 people in the San Bernardino, California, area.” Another reason for staying the h*ll out of S. California.

      It all seems to indicate that earthquakes, rock falls and volcanoes cause a large portion of the fatalities. It would be hard to blame rain-induced landslides on those metrics.

      And the rain for those landslides? Monsoons, hurricanes and even ENSO can’t be blamed on global warming.

      Charlie Skeptic

  7. once again, if you want to study land slides, you have to put “climate change” in the application to get funded. The nice thing here is that they did not put the usual clause at the end that says future climate change could change the outcome for the worse.

      • Your statement is a verbal model of reality. If you used a computer to type and store it then it must be a computer model of reality!
        That must make getting a grant easier for us all😀

    • Shows how stoopid these people are. No looming catastrophe, no more funding. Just researched themselves right out of the trough.

  8. The extra CO2 makes vegetation grow with an extra 40%. And we will find extra vegetation in semi dry area’s. Plus extra vegetation higher up the hill where it warms. And all that vegetation makes roots and those roots are keeping the soil together. And when those roots die they form soil (colluvium), further promoting vegetation growth. And all is preventing landslides.

    Both extra dryness resistance because of the extra CO2 plus the expected extra rain will also promote vegetation, especially in the drier area’s.

    I wouldn’t be surprised when in the longer run landslides would diminish with a 50%. Unless some human beings would start extra deforestation at steep hills…..

    Under these circumstances it is worth a compliment that the research team knew to conclude that ‘global warming’ is still a very little bit dangerous: still 0,5% MORE landslides….. The model proved!

  9. After homogenizing the results of this paper, two years from now we will see NOAA headlines of Global Warming causing more landslides.

    Anthony will publish the article here, we will see many comments about how poorly the adjustments were done and 5 comments by Mosher indicating why the adjustments were made and why they are necessary.

  10. I predict a significant chance of a landslide Nov. 8 that will leave many climatologists suffering.

  11. This catch and release science strategy of doom and relax is great for sustainability of the volume-based science publication system and reward system.

  12. “The consequences of landslides are therefore wide-reaching, so it’s vital that we get a better understanding of how they may evolve under future climate conditions.”

    Landslides only evolve if they are given enough time to build up related soils. Hundreds to thousands of years, anybody?

    Whatever is there now will eventually be washed out to result in: “… landslides are the primary source of sediment in mountain ranges, with significant knock-on effects on river, floodplain and estuarine systems, as well as playing an important role in global biogeochemical cycles.” It is going happen, no matter a trivial increase (or decrease?) in rainfall.

    I suppose if my career was looking at landslides, I’d use the climate change cornucopia to fund my “vital” research. Poor mountain folk probably won’t fund his vacations but I know from personal experience, bureaucrats will fund anything.

    Charlie Skeptic

  13. As there has already been a 1C increase in ‘global temp’ since 1850, wouldn’t that have already caused sufficient climate change that the increase or not of landslides is a known rather than use models for future events?

    Why is it that the known increase in temps has not caused all of the may/could/possible climate changes often attributed to future CAGW?

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