Satellite rainfall products outperform ground observations for landslide prediction in India

Landslides are among the most dangerous natural hazards, particularly in developing countries, where ground observations for operative early warning systems are lacking. In these areas, remote sensing can represent an important detection and monitoring process to predict landslide occurrence in space and time, particularly satellite rainfall products that have improved in terms of accuracy and resolution in recent times. Surprisingly, only a few studies have investigated the capability and effectiveness of these products in landslide prediction in reducing the impact of this hazard on the population. We have performed a comparative study of ground and satellite-based rainfall products for landslide prediction in India by using empirical rainfall thresholds derived from the analysis of historical landslide events. Specifically, we have tested Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) and SM2RAIN-ASCAT satellite rainfall products, and their merging, at daily and hourly temporal resolution, and Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) daily rain gauge observations. A catalogue of 197 rainfall-induced landslides that occurred throughout India in the 13-year period between April 2007 and October 2019 has been used. Results indicate that satellite rainfall products outperform ground observations thanks to their better spatial (0.1 vs. 0.25 ) and temporal (hourly vs. daily) resolutions. The better performance is obtained through the merged GPM and SM2RAIN-ASCAT products, even though improvements in reproducing the daily rainfall (e.g. overestimation of the number of rainy days) are likely needed. These findings open a new avenue for using such satellite products in landslide early warning systems, particularly in poorly gauged areas.