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Geomorphology Research Group

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Landslide Risk Evaluation

Risk assessment is the final goal of many landslide investigations. It lays at the fuzzy boundary between science, technology, economy and politics, including planning and policy making. Assessing landslide risk is a complex and uncertain operation that requires the combination of different techniques, methods and tools, and the interplay of various expertises pertaining – among the others – to geology and geomorphology, engineering and environmental sciences, meteorology, climatology, mathematics, information technology, economics, social sciences and history. Despite the indisputable importance of landslide risk evaluation for decision making, comparatively little efforts have been made to establish and systematically test methods for landslide risk assessment, and to determine their advantages and limitations. In this chapter, after a brief review of the relevant literature, I present concepts and definitions useful for landslide risk assessment, including a discussion of the differences between quantitative (probabilistic) and qualitative (heuristic) approaches. I then make various examples of probabilistic, heuristic, and geomorphological landslide risk assessments. The examples include: (i) the determination of societal and individual levels of landslide risk in Italy, and a comparison with risk levels posed by other natural and man-made hazards, and by the principal medical causes of deaths in Italy, (ii) a preliminary attempt to establish the geographical distribution of landslide risk to the population in Italy, (iii) the determination of rock fall risk to vehicles and pedestrians along roads in the Nera River and the Corno River valleys, in eastern Umbria, (iv) the design and application of a geomorphological method for the determination of heuristic levels of landslide risk at selected sites in Umbria, based on information obtained from the interpretation of multiple sets of aerial photographs of different ages, combined with the analysis of historical information on past landslide events, and pre-existing knowledge on landslide type and abundance, (v) an attempt to determine the type and extent of landslide damage in Umbria, based on the analysis of a catalogue of landslides and their consequences, and (vi) an effort to establish the location and extent of sites of possible landslide impact on the population, the agriculture, the built-up environment, and the transportation network in Umbria. ...

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