Image captured by Sentinel-2 on February 8 2021 of the Fuego volcano (left), Pacaya volcano (right), Guatemala City (upper right), with volcano lava visible in red. Image: Sentinel Hub, ESA.

In Guatemala there are two volcanoes which have been more active recently: Fuego and Pacaya. These volcanoes pose a prominent threat to the lives of the inhabitants of the highly populated surrounding areas. This threat is evidenced by the 2018 eruption of Fuego, which caused the deaths of nearly 200 people, and the recent activity of Pacaya volcano since the beginning of the year, that has impacted communities located in its foothills, and which forced authorities to close Guatemala's international airport in Guatemala City due to ash fall from its activity.

The two volcanoes were effusive and explosive in early February 2021, according to reports by the Smithsonian Institute Global Volcanism Program and the National Institute of Seismology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) of Guatemala. This has resulted in... read more

Publishing Date: 14/05/2021
The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 16 (GOES-16) captured this image of Eta around on November 3. Image: NASA Earth Observatory.

The hurricane season in Central America normally quiets down at the end of October, but this year is one of those rare years when tropical storms and hurricanes in the region have occured beyond the typical season. With 30 events thus far, the 2020 tropical storm season in the Caribbean continues to take its toll in developing countries in Central America. Hurricane Eta entered the west coast of Nicaragua on 3 November as a Category 4 hurricane – the second-highest classification category. It triggered massive floods in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. In some regions, the magnitude of these floods was similar to those triggered by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which devastated the region and killed more than 35,000 people throughout Central America. Fortunately, the consequences of Hurricane Eta were much smaller.

UN-SPIDER has been supporting disaster response efforts to Hurricane Eta at the request of the... read more

Publishing Date: 16/11/2020
Fire burning in northern New Mexico captured by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 in June 2013. Image: NASA.

At the end of April and the beginning of May 2020, Peten, the northern province or department of Guatemala, experienced severe forest fires that forced Guatemala’s National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) to request the activation of the International Charter Space and Major Disasters to map the geographical extent of the fires.

To support members of Guatemala’s technical, inter-institutional, GIS and remote sensing team for disaster management (GT-SIGER) in addressing the fires and their impact, Dr. Alexander Ariza, a visiting scientist with the UN-SPIDER programme, conducted a webinar on 7 May 2020 to highlight online products and resources that are available to map the burn severity of forest fires.  

Forest fires have a major influence on ecosystems and contribute to climate... read more

Publishing Date: 08/06/2020
Drone view of Seychelles coastline

The  Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), a grant-funding mechanism managed by the World Bank, has released a new report that analyzes how machine learning (ML) can be applied in disaster risk management (DRM) projects. The publication provides a concise, demystifying reference that readers - from project managers to data scientists - can easily use. It includes key definitions, case studies and practical considerations for the use of machine learning in disaster risk management.

Machine Learning at a glance

A machine learning (ML) algorithm is a type of computer program that learns to perform specific tasks based on various data inputs or rules provided by its designer. In the context of DRM, machine learning applies predominantly to methods used in the classification or categorization of remotely sensed satellite, aerial, drone and even street-level imagery by capitalizing on a large body of work on image recognition and classification.... read more

Publishing Date: 26/02/2019
Panel at UN-SPIDER/CONCYT seminar.

The United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) and the National Council for Science and Technology of Guatemala (CONCYT), through the National Secretariat for Science and Technology (SENACYT), co-organize a seminar in Guatemala from 30 to 31 October about the technological and institutional progress made in Guatemala in prevention, preparedness and response during disaster situations.

Twenty years after Hurricane Mitch made landfall in Guatemala, experts from various disciplines gathered to discuss the advances in science in relation to the different phases of disaster management. In November 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed about 9,000 people and displaced almost half a million. The... read more

Publishing Date: 31/10/2018

UN-SPIDER and the National Secretariat for Science and Technology of Guatemala (SENACYT) joined forces to conduct a seminar on the use of science, technology and innovation in disaster risk reduction and response efforts. The seminar was conducted in Guatemala City on 24 July 2018 as part of the week-long CONVERCIENCIA 2018 event organized by SENACYT. The seminar brought together experts from public and private institutions, universities and non-government organizations (NGOs), as well as students from various universities.

The seminar allowed participants to take note of recent advances in the use of science and technology in the areas of disaster management and emergency response applicable to Guatemala. Specifically, the seminar explored the use of technology to become better aware of risks associated with volcanic and seismic activity, the benefits of satellite technology and drones in case of disasters, and the applications of geospatial technologies in Guatemala’s... read more

Publishing Date: 21/08/2018
Guatemala training course July 2017

In recent decades, Guatemala has been experiencing disasters triggered by geologic and hydro-meteorological hazards that have impacted urban and rural communities. In order to increase the country’s capacity to make use of space-based information to address these hazards, UN-SPIDER, in conjunction with the National Secretariat of the Council of Science and Technology of Guatemala (SENACYT) and the Executive Secretariat of National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Reduction of Guatemala (SE-CONRED) held three-day training for a technical inter-institutional team. The training took place at the GIS Laboratory of the Faculty of Agriculture of San Carlos University (USAC), Guatemala City.

Experts from the Agustin Codazzi Geographic Institute (IGAC, in its role as one of the UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices) and of the Federal University of Santa Maria in Rio Sul Brazil conducted the training course that targeted 25 participants from 12 government agencies, faculty members from... read more

Publishing Date: 04/08/2017
Regional Support Offices mentioned:

The National Secretariat for Science and Technology of Guatemala (SENACYT) organized a week-long event called CONVERCIENCIA 2017 to showcase the research conducted by Guatemalan researchers living abroad and researchers living in Guatemala. The event, conducted from 24 to 28 July 2017, includes conferences in universities and research centres in Guatemala City, Antigua City, Chiquimula City, and Quetzaltenango City. The event brought together researchers who are focusing their efforts in physics, mathematics, chemistry, public health, biology and bio-technology, space technology, information and communications technologies and computer science among others. SENACYT mobilized 19 Guatemalan researchers from countries in Europe, Asia, and America.

UN-SPIDER was invited to participate in this event, and took the opportunity to showcase the use of space technologies in disaster risk reduction, early warning systems and response efforts. Particular attention was given the on-... read more

Publishing Date: 28/07/2017
Landslide in Santa Catarina Pinula, Guatemala due to heavy rains. (Source: The

The International Charter: Space and Major Disasters has been triggered to provide satellite-based emergency maps in response to heavy rains that triggered a massive landslide in the "El Cambray 2" urban settlement in Santa Catarina Pinula, Guatemala. The mechanism was activated on 7 October 2015, at 02:57 (UTC+02:00) by the USGS on behalf of the National Emergency Operations Center of Guatemala. The NEOC of Guatemala requested the activation of the Charter via CONAE in Argentina.

Around 160 bodies have been recovered as of 6 October and the NEOC estimates that more than 300 persons are still missing. Search and rescue efforts are being conducted to search for survivors in houses covered by trees and debris.

CONRED officials have declared the area uninhabitable. Over 230 people are being relocated. Officials from CONRED... read more

Publishing Date: 07/10/2015

The Coordination Centre for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC) in Guatemala launched on 19 November 2012 an online Platform for Information and Communication for Integrated Risk Management: The website offers a range of information and applications that help strengthen mechanisms for coordination and institutional and sectoral communication between the Central American countries. The tool will also provide decision makers with critical information how to minimizes the vulnerability of the population at risk and provide relief in emergency situations.

The portal is the result of a thorough process of review and evaluation of existing tools to generate, disseminate, access and use information relating to disaster risk management. The project was initiated in 2007 in response to the Central American countries' need to access and exchange updated information on this subject in a unified and... read more

Publishing Date: 20/11/2012

On 7 November 2012 at 10:35 am local time, the southwestern region of Guatemala was impacted by a strong earthquake that provoked fatalities and losses. The 7.4 magnitude earthquake had its epicenter 35 kilometers south of the Port of Champerico in the Retalhuleu Department. The National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Reduction of Guatemala (CONRED) conducted a damage and needs assessment and confirmed that most damages took place in the highlands. On 8 November 2012 the President of the Republic of Guatemala, Mr. Otto Perez Molina, declared a State of Public Calamity in San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Quiche and Huehuetenango. In order to obtain satellite imagery and maps of the affected area, the Executive Secretariat of CONRED contacted UN-SPIDER to request the activation of the International Charter Space and Major Disasters, which was subsequently activated by the Argentina Civil Protection Agency (SIFEM) on behalf of CONRED on 8 November 2012. More information is available on... read more

Publishing Date: 13/11/2012

In collaboration with the Ministry of Environment & Natural Resources (MARN) in Guatemala, UN-SPIDER's Regional Support Office CATHALAC (Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean) is carrying out a satellite-based analysis of the current mangrove cover of Guatemala. The experts elaborated several maps showing the cover in 2012. Various remote sensing and field data techniques were applied to conduct this research. The experts used satellite images of the periods from 2001 to 2012 including Landsat-5 TM, Landsat-7 ETM + (NASA / USGS), Hyperion (NASA) and ALOS PALSAR (JAXA).

Mangrove forests are a natural protective barrier against tropical storms and hurricanes. This research was conducted of the necessity to quantify and identify the current areas of mangroves on the Pacific as well as the Atlantic coast of Guatemala. The results show that both the Pacific and Atlantic Mangrove forests cover an area of approximately 18.904 hectares (189.04... read more

Publishing Date: 08/10/2012

UN-SPIDER's Regional Support Office CATHALAC (Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean) quickly reacted to yesterday's eruption of Guatemala's Fuego Volcano. In the context of SERVIR, the experts published a preliminary analysis of the volcano eruption including NASA MODIS satellite imagery, NOAA GOESS data as well as prognostics on winds and further volcanic activities. Additionally, via CATHALAC's GeoViewer, several pre- and post-disaster images are available tracking the development of the ash cloud. These 14 departments are affected by the ash cloud covering 89,460 hectares of land: Santiago Atitlán, San Lucas Tolimán, Chicacao, Pochuta, Acatenango, Santa Barbara, Patulul, Yepocapa, Alotenango, Rio Bravo, San Juan Bautista, Escuintla, Siquinalá y Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa.

After the... read more

Publishing Date: 14/09/2012

UN-SPIDER participated in the Central American Communicators' Forum "The role of Institutional Communications in the Culture of Risk Prevention" organised by the Coordination Center for Natural Disaster Prevention of Central America (CEPREDENAC) on 10 July 2012. The forum took place in Guatemala City and was attended by forty public relations and media officers from various ministries, civil protection agencies, and by representatives from mass media including newspapers and television networks from the six Central American countries.

The forum offered a space for reflection and discussion regarding opportunities and roles of institutional communications in the context of integral risk management. In his opening remarks, the Executive Secretary of CEPREDENAC, Iván Morales, commented that integral risk management is based on political, economic, social and environmental dimensions and that its aim is to create conditions of integral security throughout the territory that... read more

Publishing Date: 26/07/2012

In recent years, Guatemala has been affected by a variety of natural hazards including tropical storms, landslides, droughts and volcanic eruptions. Such events have triggered disasters that have forced the government to request humanitarian assistance, and to rethink its reconstruction efforts with risk management practices in mind. In order to generate and make better use of geospatial information to support risk management and emergency response several government agencies are setting up the Inter-institutional Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Group for Risk Management and Disaster Response. This was a key recommendation made by UN-SPIDER during the 2010 Technical Advisory Mission to Guatemala.

The main goals established by the group include: strengthening the capacity of the State of Guatemala to generate information to be used in the decision-making process through a multi-sectorial and inter-institutional approach; and increasing the use of... read more

Publishing Date: 25/07/2012

On Saturday evening 19 May 2012, the Volcano "Fuego" in Guatemala had a strong eruption, which led to the evacuation of some communities located on its foothills. The National Emergency Response Commission (CONRED) of Guatemala subsequently requested UN-SPIDER's support in facilitating the access to satellite imagery via its network. The International Charter Space and Major Disasters was eventually activated by the Argentina Civil Protection Agency (SIFEM) on behalf of CONRED on 21 May 2012.

The eruption of the 3.700 meters high volcano was one of its largest in recent years. Eruptions began at 2:45 a.m. with explosions and lava fountains up to 400 meters high. The eruption produces an ash column of almost 5000 meters height. Lava and ash prompted evacuations as well as flight restrictions. Authorities declared an "orange" alert after the volcano entered the phase of effusive eruption, throwing lava over 300 meters, and ash ejected more than 5000 meters. Ash continued to... read more

Publishing Date: 23/05/2012

UN-SPIDER’s Regional Support Office CATHALAC prepared a preliminary analysis of the effects of land subsidence in Mixco, Guatemala using space-based information. The analysis was prepared in the context of SERVIR and with the collaboration of Guatemala’s Ministry of the Environment (MARN), the National Protected Areas Council (CONAP), and UN-SPIDER.

In summarizing the analysis, it is noted that overlaying the map of the area’s hydro-geology allows one to see that the communities affected are located not only above an aquifer, but also near a system of geological faults, both of which may be contributing to the land subsidence. Additionally, the preliminary analysis shows that the urbanized area above the aquifer has been rapidly expanding at a rate of approximately 28% per year, from approx. 84 hectares in 1986 to approx. 680 hectares in 2011.

Publishing Date: 28/03/2012

Using the 3D-UDOP Geo-viewer to enhance situational awareness of seismic risk in Guatemala

Guatemala is a country exposed to a variety of hazards including earthquakes. Located at the intersection of three tectonic plates, the country is prone to large earthquakes such as the one which took place on 4 February 1976, which killed more than 23,000 people and affected nearly five million inhabitants.

To illustrate the capacity of geo-viewers for enhancing situational awareness concerning seismic risk in Guatemala, the United States Southern Command, Thermopylae S+T of the United States, the National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), Mariano Galvez University, and the Center for Natural Disaster Research and Mitigation (CIMDEN) from Guatemala joined forces to upload the corresponding information into the 3D-UDOP geo-viewer. Once the information was uploaded, the 3D-UDOP was showcased in two activities: the 2nd Session of the Regional Platform for... read more

Publishing Date: 01/04/2011

In an effort to showcase the capacity of geo-viewers to enhance situational awareness concerning risks associated with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Thermopylae Sciences and Technology of the United States, the National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), Mariano Galvez University, and the Center for Natural Disaster Research and Mitigation (CIMDEN) from Guatemala are joining forces to demonstrate the capacities of the 3D-UDOP geo-viewer developed by Thermopylae S&T to display information about these risks in Guatemala and to facilitate the visualization of potential impacts in case of earthquakes in particular areas of the country.

This activity is conducted in the context of the SPIDER Thematic Partnership for Latin America and the Caribbean, which has been established by the UN-SPIDER Programme to support National Platforms for Disaster Reduction that have been set up according to the guidelines proposed by ISDR as vehicles to reach the goals... read more

Publishing Date: 04/02/2011

UN-SPIDER carried out a Technical Advisory Mission (TAM) to Guatemala from 22 to 26 November 2010. Conducted at the request of the Presidential Secretariat for Planning and Programming (SEGEPLAN), UN-SPIDER assembled a team of experts from CATHALAC-SERVIR which is a UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office, CONAE, CRECTEALC, and the Organization of American States.

As in previous missions in Ecuador, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic, the TAM to Guatemala included visits to a variety of government institutions and universities, as well as a workshop with the goal of identifying strengths and weaknesses regarding access to and use of space-based information in all phases of the disaster management cycle. Through a review of existing institutional policies, strategies, and past and ongoing activities conducted by these institutions, the team of experts was able to deduct a set of recommendations that will allow Guatemala to institutionalize its capacity to use space-based information... read more

Publishing Date: 30/11/2010

On March 5, 2010 the UN-SPIDER attended a meeting with the Lady Executive Director of SEGEPLAN (Secretaría de Planificación y Programación de la Presidencia), Dr. Karin Slowing Umaña to discuss a Technical Advisory Mission (TAM)  to be conducted by UN-SPIDER to Guatemala later this year. 

The mission, to be conducted at the request of SEGEPLAN, builds up on previous interactions between SEGEPLAN and UN-SPIDER. The mission will be conducted to assess current institutional capacities regarding access to and use of space-based information for disaster-risk reduction and emergency response, as a means to provide to SEGEPLAN and other government agencies advice on how to improve institutional capacities in this respect. As in previous cases, the mission will target four key issues: policies regarding the use of space-based information for disaster-risk reduction and emergency response, access to space-based information, use of such information including spatial data... read more

Publishing Date: 01/04/2010

UN-SPIDER was invited by the Guatemalan Council of Science and Technology to participate in CONVERCIENCIA 2009, which forms part of a strategy to promote the development of science, technology and innovation within Guatemala. On an annual basis, Guatemalan scientists working abroad are invited to conduct outreach activities in the country, network with local scientists and practitioners, deliver presentation to the general public and provide advice to the National Secretariat for Science and Technology. As an outcome of this mission to Guatemala, a project was outlined to be conducted with the support of UN-SPIDER to investigate the dynamics of the problem of sedimentation which arises when torrential rainfall transports extreme amounts of sand from the foothills of active volcanoes to deltas and floodplains. The project will aim at providing municipal and regional governments with policy-relevant advice regarding how to cope with such sedimentation processes through land-use... read more

Publishing Date: 27/08/2009

UN-SPIDER Training Activity

Remote sensing techniques and UN-SPIDER Recommended Practices on drought and burn severity mapping

During the three-day training, the inter-institutional technical team was trained on how to use remote sensing techniques and UN-SPIDER Recommended Practices on droughts and forest fires as a way to generate relevant and timely geospatial information that is useful for disaster risk reduction, preparedness and emergency response efforts. The training segment on the UN-SPIDER Recommended...

Date of training: 31/07/2017 to 02/08/2017

Advisory Support

An official mission was conducted to Guatemala as a way to follow-up on the provision of technical advisory support to Guatemala. 

Mission dates: 07/07/2016 to 11/07/2016


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