Landslide threats worldwide can now be detected in near real-time with NASA's new imaging model that uses torrential rains in its signaling system.

The Landslide Hazard Assessment for Situational Awareness (LHASA) was developed in NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland with the capability of estimating potential landslide activities.

When land conditions are unstable, such as in areas that are quake-prone, rainfall is the most effective trigger of landslides. During a heavy downpour, rain will expedite movement of mud, rocks, and debris, especially on mountains and hillsides.

Increasing Public Awareness

NASA has been using LHASA for the past 15 years to analyze landslide hazards. The purpose of developing this new open source is to increase the public's understanding of the potential landslide locations and to promote long-term solution plans.

"Landslides can cause widespread destruction and fatalities, but we really don't have a complete sense of where and when landslides may be happening to inform disaster response and mitigation," said Dalia Kirschbaum, research author and a landslide expert at Goddard.

"This model helps pinpoint the time, location and severity of potential landslide hazards in near real-time all over the globe. Nothing has been done like this before," Kirschbaum explained.

The way LHASA works is that it utilizes rainfall data from a multi-satellite program developed by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency called the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM).

The GPM measures rainfall in all corners of the world every 30 minutes. Real-time data, including those that are seven days old, are then forwarded to NASA for analysis. The regions that show the highest amount of rainfall over a specific time period are flagged as landslide-prone.

Other Factors

However, there are other factors that would determine if an area is susceptible to landslides such as nearby road constructions, removed or burned trees, the presence of a fault line, weak bedrock, and steep hillsides.

NASA analyzed trends dating back to 2007 and concluded that there is an occurrence of a "landslide season" in July and August. It explains that landslides are more frequent during these months when the Asian monsoon and tropical cyclones kick in in the Atlantic and Pacific regions.

Thomas Stanley, the coauthor of the study and a landslide expert with the Universities Space Research Association, said that the potential of LHASA is far-reaching, immediate, and accurate.

"The model has been able to help us understand immediate potential landslide hazards in a matter of minutes," said Stanley.

He added that the model can also be used to analyze retroactive data to determine approximate landslide schedules whether seasonally, annually, or decadal.

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