Rainfall thresholds for debris flow triggering in El Salvador

El Salvador is a country in Central America that is geologically young, with several active volcanoes that have erupted in the past 100 years. Its climatology and a considerable amount of people living close to its volcanoes makes El Salvador very vulnerable to debris flows.

An estimate of 500-700 people have died as a consequence of debris flows originated in volcanoes in the last 40 years. Currently, there is a landslide early warning system operated by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) for the entire country, but there is the need for specific thresholds for some areas where debris flows have occurred in the recent past.  

The goal of this project is the calculation of thresholds for debris flow triggering in El Salvador volcanoes. The approach used will be a statistical model and/or a physically-based model, like TRIGRS (Alvioli et al., 2016; Baum et al., 2008). Previous work has been conducted in San Salvador volcano by Cepeda (2009), using an Intensity-Duration-Antecedent Rainfall model (IAD) calibrated with a small dataset of debris flows and rainfall data.

A few debris flows have occurred since that study and there is a larger rainfall dataset that could be used to update the model and extended it to other areas if possible. There is also data from a soil moisture model that could be tested.

All communications with the co-supervisors outside Norway will be in English. It is not necessary to know any Spanish. The thesis work will not require any international travelling.


  • Alvioli, M.; Baum, R.L. Parallelization of the TRIGRS model for rainfall-induced landslides using the message passing interface. Environ. Model. Soft. 2016, 81, 122–135
  • Baum, R.L.; Savage, W.Z.; Godt, J.W. TRIGRS—A Fortran Program for Transient Rainfall Infiltration and Grid-Based Regional Slope-Stability Analysis, Version 2.0, Open-File Report 2008-1159; Savage, W.Z., Ed.; US Geological Survey: Denver, CO, USA, 2008
  • Cepeda, J. (2009) Characterisation and risk management of rainfall-induced landslides. PhD dissertation, University of Oslo
Published Sep. 30, 2021 11:37 AM - Last modified Sep. 30, 2021 11:37 AM

Scope (credits)