United States of America


The Anticipation Hub logo. Image: Anticipation Hub.

The Disasters programme unit at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently joined a newly launched online platform aimed at placing anticipatory action on the humanitarian agenda. NASA’s involvement in the Anticipation Hub and the subsequent incorporation of Earth observation (EO) tools, serves to improve the capabilities of anticipatory action globally and demonstrates the potential of utilizing satellite-driven data for anticipatory action in disaster management.

Anticipatory action in the humanitarian context describes disaster mitigation activities based on in-depth forecast information and risk analysis. This approach has gained traction amongst the humanitarian community in recent years as it is viewed as a more efficient and affordable alternative to... read more

Publishing Date: 02/02/2021

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States Government (NASA) signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 17 December 2020 pledging cooperation in areas of science and technology to support the peaceful uses of outer space.

The MoU brings together NASA's wealth of open-source spacecraft data, tools, and expertise and UNOOSA's unique position as the only UN entity dedicated to outer space affairs, to expand global opportunities to leverage the benefits of space. The partners will design capacity-building programmes, particularly for institutions in countries that do not yet have or that are developing space capabilities, to help them access space.

Together, UNOOSA and NASA will develop ways to leverage the Artemis programme as part of UNOOSA's Access to Space 4 All Initiative, which offers opportunities for international researchers and institutions, especially in... read more

Publishing Date: 11/01/2021
Screenshot of the SMAP tool in action. Image: NASA

Officially launched in 2015 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the SMAP mission is an orbiting satellite that measures the amount of wetness in the top layer of soil incrementally every 2-3 days. These Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) measurements rely on radiation frequencies that point to different levels of moisture on the surface of  earth’s soil and are useful for scientists because it allows them to construct maps indicating the level of soil moisture globally. Acknowledging the relevance and usability of this data for the field of disaster management, NASA recently integrated the SMAP data into its Disasters Mapping Portal

The Disasters Mapping Portal has been developed by the Geographic Informations Systems (GIS) Team at NASA in an effort to make their satellite data... read more

Publishing Date: 25/11/2020

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Republic of Korea are working together on a global satellite constellation of three space-based instruments that could track global pollution on an hourly basis. These air quality satellites will measure pollutants, including ozone, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde and tiny atmospheric particles called aerosols in order to enhance our understanding of air quality and air pollution. To date, air quality satellites have collected data only once a day. These three new instruments will provide hourly, highly detailed and near-real-time data that will improve air quality science and forecasting around the world, in particular around the most densely populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere. 

Collecting data hourly will allow to capture pollution that appears episodically, like rush-hour traffic or a power plant that switches on to meet peak power demands, as well... read more

Publishing Date: 30/03/2020
Modeled catchment mean annual loss. For clarity, only catchments with a mean annual loss of >$1.5 million have been plotted. Image: Quinn, N., Bates, P. D., Neal, J., Smith, A., Wing, O., Sampson, C., et al. ( 2019).

A recent study, published in the Water Resource Research journal, presents a new method for a spatially realistic national flood risk assessment.

Researchers expanded an existing statistical model, based on U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) river flow data, to simulate a thousand years of potential flood events. By calculating the damage for each event in dollars, they were able to estimate the probability of the United States suffering particular annual flood damages.

Traditional risk flood analysis models assume that the impacts on the entire flood-affected area are the same, but flooding can be more severe in some areas than in others, even during the same flood event. At national scales, traditional risk analyses can only estimate the average annual loss. To estimate the total annual losses that might occur in more extreme flooding... read more

Publishing Date: 04/07/2019
FV3: Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere Dynamical Core

In June 2019, NOAA upgraded its flagship weather model, the Global Forecast System (GFS), with a new dynamic core, called Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere Dynamical Core (FV3). This upgrade of the GFS will enhance global numerical weather forecasting and better forecast precipitation, heavy rainfall and weather types at both regional and global level. Besides, the FV3-based GFS revealed improvements in predicting the track and intensity of tropical cyclones compared to the older GFS.

Combining the superior dynamics of global climate modeling with the everyday reliability and speed of operational numerical weather forecasting, the latest weather model upgrade makes the new dynamical core to the engine of the GFS. The new dynamic core is an important model component that calculates wind and air pressure in order to obtain a successful numerical weather forecast. This upgrade to the dynamic core of the model is the first major upgrade in almost 40 years. 

... read more
Publishing Date: 27/06/2019
 “Space for U.S.”, disaster search

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently released a new website, SpaceforUS, which intends to highlight how NASA has used its Earth observation data to better the living conditions of people in all 50 states of the United States of America.

SpaceforUS includes contains a total of 56 stories that illustrate NASA’s science and the impact it has had across the country. The aim is to showcase the power of Earth observation through state-by-state project examples, such as the use of satellite technologies that helped to create high-quality images to identify power averages and guide first responders for life-saving aid during Hurricane Rita.

Through this new and interactive website, NASA highlights the innumerable ways in which its Earth observations has helped administrators make informed decisions in the areas of public health, disaster... read more

Publishing Date: 08/05/2019
Synthetic aperature radar patterns of seismic deformations associated with a model earthquake on the San Francisco section of the San Andreas Fault.

Earthquakes are a major concern in increasingly populated regions, however their prediction is a difficult task. Researchers have recently made progress in the use of complex simulation and modeling techniques to better forecast the occurrences of earthquakes.

In a recent study, researchers used Gradient Boosted Regression Trees, a machine learning technique for regression and classification problems that incorporates training data, to better determine spatiotemporally complex loading histories within subduction zones. The researchers simulated tens of earthquakes using a small‐scale experimental replica of a subduction zone and show that machine learning predicts well the timing and size of laboratory earthquakes by reconstructing and properly interpreting the spatiotemporally complex loading history of the system. These results promise substantial progress in real earthquake forecasting as they suggest that the complex motion recorded by geodesists at... read more

Publishing Date: 13/03/2019
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
Air photo of the Mud Creek landslide, taken on May 27, 2017.

While several studies have already highlighted how global warming and its consequences are predicted to increase the frequency and magnitude of geohazards such as landslides, the relation between ongoing climate shifts and landslide behaviour is still difficult to assess, especially due to uncertainties in both models. In a new research paper, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and collaborating institutions have now documented the transition of a stable, slow-moving landslide into catastrophic collapse for the first time.

Their  observations lasted eight years and took place on the California Coast Ranges, which, due to their morphological structure, are an ideal natural laboratory to investigate how stress and fluid pressure changes govern the stable and unstable sliding of landslides. In recent years, more than 650 slow-moving landslides have been identified and mapped in the area. Yet, on May 20, 2017, the Mud Creek landslide suddenly... read more

Publishing Date: 20/02/2019
Image: USGIF, 2018

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) has recently released a new report on “Building Resilient Communities Through Geospatial Intelligence”. The report highlights the importance of raising awareness about the value of space-based information for early warning systems and risk and disaster management. Moreover, it suggests the need for a better definition of GEOINT within the framework of resilience.

The United Nations Platform for Spaced-Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) contributed a chapter to the study on the role of Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) in all phases of risk and disaster management and its value to developing resilient communities.

GEOINT is defined as “the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth.”

Through the perspective of ten experts in the... read more

Publishing Date: 31/10/2018
Delta State University Logo

Delta State University became the 23rd member of the network of UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices (RSO) on 1 October. As an RSO, Delta State University will communicate and coordinate with UN-SPIDER on a regular basis, engage in outreach and capacity-building efforts, and contribute to the programme’s technical advisory support activities.

Through its Geospatial Information Technologies Centre (GIT), Delta State University provides in-depth education about the theory, ethics, and practice of GIT that encompasses the use of geographic information systems, remote sensing, global positioning systems (GPS), spatial analysis techniques, and similar approaches to understand problems from a geographic perspective.

Mr. Talbot Brooks, Director of the Geospatial Information Technologies Centre (... read more

Publishing Date: 23/10/2018
SAOCOM 1A launching Credit: NASAspaceflight.com

The Argentina National Space Activities Commission (CONAE) launched a new Earth observation satellite that will support disaster management efforts. SAOCOM 1A is the first of a constellation of two radar satellites. The remote sensing mission aims to provide timely information for disaster management as well as monitoring services for agriculture, mining and ocean applications.

The SAOCOM 1A uses L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The mission, which also plans to launch the SAOCOM 1B in 2019, was designed to work within the Italian-Argentinian satellite system for Emergency response (SIASGE), where the two space agencies work together. Argentina’s  SAOCOM and Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed constellations complement each other. The later uses X-band and is designed to collect fine details. Other particularities linked to the SEACOM 1A are related to the heating system since the use of L-band implies that the structure needs to distribute the heat across the antenna.

“You... read more

Publishing Date: 09/10/2018
Regional Support Offices mentioned:
Lava flows erupting from a fissure on 5/5/18. Image: US Geological Survey.

The International Charter Space and Major Disasters has been activated for an earthquake and eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, USA on Monday.

The volcano erupted on 4 May alongside a 6.9 magnitude earthquake, spraying lava up to 70 metres and causing the evacuation of 2000 individuals, in addition to the destruction of several buildings. Dangerous levels of toxic sulfur dioxide from the lava flows also present a hazard. Residents are urged not to return to hazardous areas until the risk has subsided.

This activation was requested by the US Geological Survey on behalf of USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory/Cascades Volcano Observatory. This project was also managed by the USGS.

Publishing Date: 11/05/2018
Wildfire in California in October 2017

An advanced weather satellite to track storm systems, lightning, wildfires, coastal fog and other hazards was launched by NASA from the United States of America on 1 March.

The new Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) represents the second in a series of next generation of weather satellites which will be operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The satellites collect three times more data at four times better resolution, and scan the Earth five times faster than previous geostationary satellites. GOES-S will thus provide forecasters with faster, more accurate and more detailed data, in near real-time on severe weather and other environmental phenomena. Once GOES-S is positioned... read more

Publishing Date: 05/03/2018

275 people were rescued within the United States of America and its surrounding waters in 2017 with the help of satellites operated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Of the 275 rescues, 186 were in water, 15 were from aviation incidents and 74 were on land using personal locator beacons (PLBs).


NOAA satellites are part of COSPAS-SARSAT (Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking) – an international satellite system for search and rescue. The system which uses a network of international spacecraft to detect and locate distress signals quickly from emergency beacons aboard aircraft, boats and from handheld PLBs. The COSPAS-SARSAT programme provides accurate, timely, and reliable distress alert and location data to help Search and Rescue (SAR) authorities to assist persons in distress. The objective of the programme system is to reduce, as far as possible, delays in the provision of distress alerts to SAR... read more

Publishing Date: 21/02/2018
GOES-R. Courtesy of NASA

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R), recently launched by NASA, is the first in a sequence of highly advanced geostationary weather satellite to serve the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The main goal of this satellite is to generate precise data to be used to create and isue opportune and precise watches, forecasts, and warnings.

After the checkout and validation of its six new instruments, the new satellite will be operational in approximately a year. Among the instruments there is the first operational lightning mapper in geostationary orbit, which forecasters will use to hone in on the greatest threats: storms.

The main instrument, the advanced Baseline Imager, will provide images of Earth’s weather, oceans and environment and climate sensors on board will monitor the sun and provide vital information so forecasters will be able to provide space weather alerts and warnings. The 34 weather products provided by... read more

Publishing Date: 22/11/2016
Image courtesy of NASA by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption by Adam Voiland.

On the 1 September 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration caught this image of Hurricane Hermine reaching Florida.

The storm reached Florida coasts on the 2 of September with winds up to 120 kilometers announced the National Hurricane Center. 

Publishing Date: 03/09/2016
Image courtesy ofNASA by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption and image cropping by Adam Voiland.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) captured a space image of sediments on 17 August 2016 in Lake Pontchartrain, located in the state of Louisiana, United-States. 
Due to the heavy rainfall which affected Louisiana in August 2016, most of the rivers “crested at record-high levels” and some materials coming from Lake Maurepas via Pass Manchac were drained into Lake Pontchartrain. 
Those brown sediments are picked up during the streaming of the rivers and are made out of mud, rock and minerals.
Publishing Date: 23/08/2016
Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory by Joshua Stevens, using data from the Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE). Caption by Adam Voiland.

On the 16th of August 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) detected smoke and warm surfaces affecting San Bernardino, California. 

 On the 17th, the fire had burned 30,000 acres and forced more than 82,000 people to abandon their houses. 

"In my 40 years of fighting fire, I've never seen fire behavior so extreme," Incident Commander Mike Wakoski told the Associated Press (https://weather.com/news/news/california-wildfire-emergency-bluecut-fire-clayton-fire). As this... read more

Publishing Date: 19/08/2016
Map image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory by Joshua Stevens, using IMERG data provided courtesy of the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) Science Team's Precipitation Processing System (PPS). Caption by Pola Lem.

The Integrated Multi-satellite Retrievals for Global Precipitation Measurement (IMERG) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) gathered data on heavy rainfall in the southeast part of the United-States of America.

The downpour affected mostly the north of the Gulf of Mexico with precipitations between 500 and 900 millimeters over the Gulf of Mexico. With precipitations ranging between 300 and 400 millimeters, some areas in Florida and Louisiana may experience floods in low-lying areas.  The State of Mississippi and other parts of Louisiana are expected to be affected by heavy rainfall in the coming days as well. 

Publishing Date: 12/08/2016
Image courtesy of NASA by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption by Adam Voiland.

On the 16th of July 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) caught smoke images from space which are related to a fire on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The red spot on the picture show where the MODIS system detected unusual high temperatures.

The fire was still burning on the 26th of July, according to the National Interagency Fire Fighter.

Publishing Date: 28/07/2016
Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

On the 22nd of July 2016 a fire occurred in southern California, United States. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) acquired some images of the phenomenon during and after the burn.

On July 25th the fire burned more than 33,100 acres displacing people from more than 10,000 homes. Dozens of buildings have been destroyed in the nearby cities of Santa Clarita and San Fernando. The sand fire left a scorch dark mark on the landscape as visible on the picture.

2,900 firefighters from Los Angeles County and the U.S. Forest Service were requested to contain the fire which was controlled of up to 10 percent on the 25th of July. 

Read more about the Sand Fire ... read more

Publishing Date: 28/07/2016
Satellite image Erskine Fire. NASA Earth Observatory, image courtesy of Jesse Allen, using VIIRS day-night band data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership

A wildfire called Erskine started on 23 June 2016 in California due to an unknown cause. It burnt 18,368 hectares of forest and 250 structures in the southwest of the United-States, causing the death of two people.

The space-based images have been captured by the Suomi NPP satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Thanks to the day-night band (DNB) of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the satellite, the latter could capture the glow of the wildfire and locate with precision its geographical extent. 

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the number of wildfires expected for the summer 2016 could be bigger than usual due to the excessive heat in some regions in the United-States. 

Publishing Date: 29/06/2016
Fort McMurray Fires, Alberta, Canada. Image courtesy of NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

A destructive wildfire burned through Canada’s Northern Alberta region, destroying neighborhoods in Fort McMurray and displacing nearly 90,000 people.  The fire began on the 1st of May and the exact cause is still unknown. High temperatures and strong winds pushed it north-east two days later. Despite the work of more than 500 firefighters, by the 8th of May the fire had burnt 1,610 square kilometers of forest. By the 24th, the fire was still not extinguished but it had not grown either.

Thanks to the images captured by Landsat 8 – an Earth Observation satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – some precise and relevant data had been sent to the local authorities to contribute to cope with the effects of this huge forest fire. Authorities of Fort McMurray –ordered the evacuation of about 2,400 buildings.

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated at the request of the Government... read more

Publishing Date: 26/05/2016


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