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Using NASA data to automatically detect potential landslides in Nepal

07 July 2016

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As farmers in Nepal prepare for a fruitful monsoon season, NASA scientist Dalia Kirschbaum anticipates a different impact of the torrential rains, the loosening of earth on steep slopes that lead to landslides.

Kirschbaum oversees a team of scientists who are using data from NASA satellites to design an automated system to quickly identify landslides that often go undetected and unreported. The system scans satellite imagery for signs that a landslide may have occurred very recently. The software is now open source and available to the public.

"We know a high number of landslides occur around this time in Nepal so documenting them is really important, especially to better characterize when these events happen and what impact they have," said Kirschbaum, a landslide expert at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

In Nepal, 60 to 80 percent of the annual total precipitation occurs during the monsoon season, as do about 90 percent of landslide fatalities, according to a 2015 report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Source: NASA

Image credit: NASA's Earth Observatory - Landsat 8 imagery shows a landslide that occurred on 2 August 2014

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