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Hydroclimatic conditions preceding the March 2014 Oso landslide

March 1, 2015

The 22 March 2014 Oso landslide was one of the deadliest in U.S. history, resulting in 43 fatalities and the destruction of more than 40 structures. We examine synoptic conditions, precipitation records and soil moisture reconstructions in the days, months, and years preceding the landslide. Atmospheric reanalysis shows a period of enhanced moisture transport to the Pacific Northwest beginning on 11 February 2014. The 21- to 42-day periods prior to the landslide had anomalously high precipitation; we estimate that 300-400 mm of precipitation fell at Oso in the 21 days prior to the landslide. Relative only to historical periods ending on 22 March, the return periods of these precipitation accumulations are large (25-88 years). However, relative to the largest accumulations from any time of the year (annual maxima), return periods are more modest (2-6 years). In addition to the 21-42 days prior to the landslide, there is a secondary maximum in the precipitation return periods for the 4 years preceding the landslide. Reconstructed soil moisture was anomalously high prior to the landslide, with a return period that exceeded 40 years about a week before the event.

Publication Year 2015
Title Hydroclimatic conditions preceding the March 2014 Oso landslide
DOI 10.1175/JHM-D-15-0008.1
Authors Brian Henn, Qian Cao, Dennis P. Lettenmaier, Christopher S. Magirl, Clifford Mass, J. Brent Bower, Michael St. Laurent, Yixin Mao, Sanja Perica
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Hydrometeorology
Index ID 70143551
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Washington Water Science Center