Observation, theory, and intuition all suggest that larger earthquakes should trigger larger landslides. Many factors could contribute to this, including depth-dependent shear strength or non-linearity of ground motion in soils and rock, but we hypothesize that the key characteristics of large earthquakes causing this phenomenon are (in addition to magnitude) the frequency and duration of the strong ground motion. Because of the paucity of site-specific data for detailed analysis, we take a regional approach to this question by analyzing strong-motion records and earthquake-induced landslide (EQIL) inventories from six well-documented earthquakes. Ground motion is characterized using earthquake magnitude and the median durations and frequencies (mean periods) of subsets of strong-motion records relevant to landslide triggering. EQIL inventories are characterized using the median landslide area of the entire inventory as well as the median areas of the largest 1% of the landslides and the largest 10 landslides. We then compare ground-motion characteristics with landslide size statistics to determine possible correlations. Comparisons of all earthquake- and landslide-size statistics show strong positive correlations between landslide size and (1) magnitude, (2) ground-motion duration, and (3) mean period. Although all the ground-motion measures yield highly correlated regressions, mean period appears to be the best overall predictor of landslide size. Landslide modeling using Newmark's sliding-block method also shows that longer mean periods and durations and larger magnitudes correlate strongly with increases in modeled displacements. These results support our hypothesis that increasing period and duration of seismic ground motion are the physical factors driving increased landslide sizes for larger earthquakes. Additional studies including data from a much larger set of earthquakes is needed to confirm the results of this initial study.
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