Tectonics and climate-driven surface processes govern the evolution of Earth’s surface topography. Topographic change in turn influences lithospheric deformation, but the elementary scale at which this feedback can be effective is unclear. Here we show that it operates in a single weather-driven erosion event. In 2009, typhoon Morakot delivered ~ 3 m of precipitation in southern Taiwan, causing exceptional landsliding and erosion. This event was followed by a step increase in the shallow (< 15 km depth) earthquake frequency lasting at least 2.5 years. Also, the scaling of earthquake magnitude and frequency underwent a sudden increase in the area where mass wasting was most intense. These observations suggest that the progressive removal of landslide debris by rivers from southern Taiwan has acted to increase the crustal stress rate to the extent that earthquake activity was demonstrably affected. Our study offers the first evidence of the impact of a single weather-driven erosion event on tectonics.