The topographic signature of a major typhoon

Chih Ming Tseng, Ching-Wee Lin, Giancarlo Dalla Fontana, Paolo Tarolli

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In August 2009, the typhoon Morakot, characterized by a cumulative rainfall up to 2884mm in about three days, triggered thousands of landslides in Taiwan. The availability of LiDAR surveys before (2005) and after (2010) this event offers a unique opportunity to investigate the topographic signatures of a major typhoon. The analysis considers the comparison of slope-area relationships derived by LiDAR digital terrain models (DTMs). This approach has been successfully used to distinguish hillslope from channelized processes, as a basis to develop landscape evolution models and theories, and understand the linkages between landscape morphology and tectonics, climate, and geology. We considered six catchments affected by a different degree of erosion: three affected by shallow and deep-seated landslides, and three not affected by erosion. For each of these catchments, 2m DTMs were derived from LiDAR data. The scaling regimes of local slope versus drainage area suggested that for the catchments affected by landslides: (i) the hillslope-to-valley transitions morphology, for a given value of drainage area, is shifted towards higher value of slopes, thus indicating a likely migration of the channelized processes and erosion toward the catchment boundary (the catchment head becomes steeper because of erosion); (ii) the topographic gradient along valley profiles tends to decrease progressively (the valley profile becomes gentler because of sediment deposition after the typhoon). The catchments without any landslides present a statistically indistinguishable slope-area scaling regime. These results are interesting since for the first time, using multi-temporal high-resolution topography derived by LiDAR, we demonstrated that a single climate event is able to cause significant major geomorphic changes on the landscape, detectable using slope-area scaling analysis. This provides new insights about landscape evolution under major climate forcing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1129-1136
Number of pages8
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jun 30

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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