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The mapping of the extent of damage caused by large landslides is crucial to the recovery services. A large amount of work is however aimed particularly at the study of prediction and prevention of such events.

Minimize Landslide

Early warning from space of homes on the slide

23 November 2016

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It was a literal property crash: multiple homes in the Cármenes del Mar resort on the south coast of Spain were engulfed in a landslide, leaving families homeless. But satellite archives offer early warning of such events - and now more accessible than ever before thanks to a new cloud computing platform.

Cármenes del Mar, a coastal development on a hillside in Granada, enjoyed sea views, but soon after its 2005 construction the area became subject to ground shifting and then later it was hit by a full-fledged landslide.

"This case, and others like it, shows how crucial it is that potential geohazards are factored rigorously into urban planning," says Jorge Galve of Spain's ARPA research group.

"Our group has been studying several cases of landslides affecting urban resorts in southern Spain. By combining multiple satellite radar images we were able to detect movements of less than a centimetre per year. Such tiny motion might indicate the first stage of slope destabilisation.

"For instance, we saw such slight ground motion at another nearby resort called Marina del Este in Granada in radar data from ESA's Envisat satellite from May 2003 to December 2009. Later that winter, heavy rainfall triggered the full-scale landslide that generated severe damage to buildings and infrastructure."

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