The purpose of this study is to analyze variability in rainfall threshold for debris flow (critical rainfall for debris flow triggering) after the ML 7.3 Chi-Chi earthquake in central Taiwan in 1999. Two study sites with different geological conditions were surveyed in the earthquake area. Streambed surveys were conducted to continuously monitor debris flows between 1999 and 2006. During the 7-year study period, every debris flow event was identified, and the streambed characterized. Results show that the rainfall threshold for debris flow was remarkably lower just after the Chi-Chi Earthquake, but gradually recovered. To date, this rainfall threshold is still lower than the original level prior to the earthquake. This variability in rainfall threshold is closely related to the amount of sediment material in the initiation area of debris flow, which increased rapidly due to landslides resulting from the earthquake. With the increase in sediment material, the rainfall threshold was lowered severely during the first year following the Chi-Chi earthquake. However, heavy rainfalls mobilized the sediment material, causing debris flows and transporting sediment downstream. With the decrease in sediment material, the rainfall threshold recovered gradually over time. Furthermore, debris flows occurred only in the subbasins that had sufficient sediment material to cause significant movement. Hence, these results confirm that the sediment material in the initiation area of debris flow is a crucial component of the rainfall threshold for debris flow.
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