Landslides and rainfall

BGS Research — Landslides

The graphs on this page are updated monthly using rainfall statistics released by the Met Office and data from our National Landslide Database. The BGS began to release these monthly statistical graphs as research into recent landslide event periods increased.

Analysis carried out by the Met Office shows that the UK is experiencing more extreme rainfall events and that this is likely to be linked to climate change. The UK experienced several months of above-average rainfall from April to December 2012, making it one of the wettest periods of time for most of the country since meteorological records began.

Throughout this period, and into early 2013, a marked increase in the number of landslides was widely reported and captured in our National Landslide Database. Further well-publicised storm events in the winter of 2015 caused another peak in the landslide graph.

Landslides occurring after periods of intense, heavy rainfall are likely to result from one or more of the following:

  • water loading of the slope
  • reduction in soil strength
  • removal of soil particles
  • other material changes in the slope

Data collection, communication and social media

As well as routinely collecting data from ongoing regional geological surveys (600 KB pdf) and the published scientific literature, the online press has been monitored for information about landslides through various internet search engines since 2006.

In August 2012, social media were incorporated into this search. Twitter has proved to be the most prolific source of information, as it has for other geohazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as an early warning system around the world.

Tweets are mainly in response to events that have an immediate impact on society, such as travel disruption, which are often small slope failures. Previously, these small events would not be as visible in the regional and national media and would therefore have a much lower likelihood of being recorded in the National Landslide Database.

Read more about how we use social media and how you can contribute.

Have you seen a landslide?

Please tell us about any landslides you may have seen in the UK — use the report a landslide form or use the contact details at the end of this page.

There are many different ways to classify landslides. Those that occur in response to the extreme rainfall events are mostly likely shallow failures on artificial, engineered slopes; deeper-seated landslides have a longer response time, reflecting the time taken for infiltrating water to reach the groundwater table.

Contact the Landslide Response Team

Tel: 0115 936 3143 Email: landslides@bgs.ac.uk

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