Shallow and deep Landslides induced by rainfall in the Lisbon region (Portugal): assesement of relationships with the North Atlantic Oscillation

ZÍzere J.L., Trigo R.M., Trigo I.F.
Natural Hazards and Earth SystemSciences , 5, 331-344.

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The aim of this study is to assess the impact of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) on both the winter precipitation and the temporal occurrence of different landslide types in Portugal. The analysis is applied to five sample areas located just north of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. These sites are particularly relevant because actual dates of most of the recent landslide events are known but also because the landslides occurred in a suburban area with growing urbanization pressure.
Results show that the large inter-annual variability of winter precipitation observed in western Iberia, i.e. Portugal and parts of Spain, is largely modulated by the NAO mode. In particular, precipitation falling in Portugal between November and March presents a correlation coefficient of R=-0.66 with the NAO index. Precipitation distribution for the reference rain gauge in the study area reveals that the probability of a wet month to occur is much higher for low NAO index composites than for the corresponding high NAO index composite. It is shown that this control, exerted by NAO on the precipitation regime, is related to corresponding changes in the associated activity of North-Atlantic storm tracks that affect the western Iberia.
Landslide activity in the study area is related to both intense, short duration precipitation events (1-15 days) and long-lasting rainfall episodes (1-3 months). The former events trigger shallow translational slides while the later episodes are usually associated with deeper and larger slope movements. This second group of landslides is shown to be statistically associated with the 3-month average of the NAO index.