Soil water content is a key parameter for representing water dynamics in soils. Its prediction is fundamental for different practical applications, such as identifying shallow landslides triggering. Support vector machine (SVM) is a machine learning technique, which can be used to predict the temporal trend of a quantity since training from past data. SVM was applied to a test slope of OltrepÃ² Pavese (northern Italy), where meteorological parameters coupled with soil water content at different depths (0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 1.0, 1.2, 1.4 m) were measured. Two SVM models were developed for water content assessment: (i) model 1, considering rainfall amount, air temperature, air humidity, net solar radiation, and wind speed; (ii) model 2, considering the same predictors of model 1 together with antecedent condition parameters (cumulated rainfall of 7, 30, and 60 days; mean air temperature of 7, 30, and 60 days). SVM model 2 showed significantly higher satisfactory results than model 1, for both training and test phases and for all the considered soil levels. SVM models trends were implemented in a methodology of slope safety factor assessment. For a real event occurred in the tested slope, the triggering time was correctly predicted using data estimated by SVM model based on antecedent meteorological conditions. This confirms the necessity of including these predictors for building a SVM technique able to estimate correctly soil moisture dynamics in time. The results of this paper show a promising potential application of the SVM methodologies for modeling soil moisture required in slope stability analysis.
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