Using multi-temporal remote sensor imagery to detect earthquake-triggered landslides

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China

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Landslides are a major type of geohazards claiming thousands of casualties and billions of dollars in property damages every year. Catastrophic landslide activities are often triggered by some extreme events such as earthquakes, excessive precipitations, or volcanic eruptions. Quickly identifying the spatial distribution of landslides induced by these extreme events is crucial for coordinating rescue efforts and planning in situ investigations. In this study, we propose an automated method for detecting the spatial distribution of earthquake-triggered landslides by examining after-event vegetation changes. Central to this method is the use of pre- and post-event remote sensor images covering the same area. Geometric correction and radiometric normalization are performed before deriving a vegetation index from each image. Then, an image differencing procedure is applied to the two derived indices. With the resultant difference image, an initial landslide distribution map is generated by highlighting the pixels with a threshold percentage decrease in the brightness values as a direct result of the image subtraction. The threshold percentage value is interactively determined by using a visual interpretation method. The final landslide distribution map is produced after using a modal filter to suppress boundary errors in the initial map. This method has been implemented in a test site, approximately 30km from the epicenter of the Sichuan earthquake (7.9 Ms) that struck on 12 May 2008. A pre-event Thematic Mapper image and a post-event Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer scene are used. The thematic accuracy assessment indicates that 90% of the landslides have correctly been mapped. Given the relatively simple procedures and the good mapping accuracy, the image processing and change detection method identified in this study seems to be promising from an operational perspective.
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Bibliographic reference: 

Yang, X., & Chen, L. (2010). Using multi-temporal remote sensor imagery to detect earthquake-triggered landslides. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation12(6), 487-495.

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