Landslides are one of the most pervasive hazards in the world, resulting in more fatalities and economic damage than is generally recognized. They have caused more than 11,500 fatalities in 70 countries from 2007-2010, and in the United States alone $1-2 billion dollars per year in damage from destroyed houses and blocked roads, according to the United States Geological Survey. Saturating the soil on vulnerable slopes, intense and prolonged rainfall is the most frequent landslide trigger. But understanding the land and weather conditions that lead to landslides on larger scales or within developing countries is often difficult because of the lack of ground-based sensors at the landslide site to provide rainfall information.
Aerial view of landslide that buried Colonia Las Colinas.
While rainfall-triggered landslides tend to be localized to a hillside, a recent global model uses TRMM information on rainfall accumulation over one day to a week to provide a near global picture of areas where landslides may be anticipated. Still in development stages, this global landslide nowcasting model may be helpful to characterize landslide hazards in near real-time over larger areas. It combines information on surface susceptibility, including topography, soil type and vegetation with TRMM rainfall data to identify locations of potential landslides. Model outputs and documentation of the global flood and landslide systems are available at the TRMM Global Flood and Landslide Monitoring page. GPM’s more frequent and more detailed coverage of the globe may help improve model accuracy and expand potential landslide forecasting capabilities.
An example of TRMM's landslide monitoring maps that show areas which may be more susceptible to landslides.
Go to the TRMM Potential Landslide Areas page.
This image shows the Casita volcano in western Nicaragua after a mudslide caused by Hurricane Mitch in October of 1998. Photograph by U.S. Geological Survey.