GPM Applications Banner: Disasters

Using GPM Data for Disasters and Risk Management

Too much or too little rainfall can have significant impacts on populations around the world. As population and global temperatures increase, it is crucial to understand what locations will become more vulnerable to extreme rainfall and drought and the subsequent natural hazards (e.g., landslides) and risks (e.g., lose of property) they impose. Satellites allow us to monitor changes in the precipitation, especially over oceans and regions where ground-based data are sparse. With its near-real-time precipitation estimates and near global coverage, GPM serves as an essential tool for assessing risk and planning disaster response and recovery.  For example, near-real-time precipitation data from GPM are used within various models to help monitor and predict the path and intensity of tropical storms, vegetation fire starting and spreading, and landslide activity across the globe. The Disasters and Risk Management applications area seeks to use the GPM precipitation satellite data to improve forecasting, preparation, response, recovery, mitigation and insurance of natural hazards including tropical cyclones, floods, droughts, wildfires, landslides, and other extreme weather events.

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GPM's GMI / DPR provides views of hurricane Lane’s precipitation, showing intense storms near the center on August 19, 2018. Credit: Hal Pierce (SSAI/NASA GSFC).

 

The GPM Mission provides insight into how and why some tropical cyclones intensify and others weaken as they move from tropical to mid-latitude systems. The GPM Core Observatory’s GMI and DPR instruments allow scientists to study the internal structure of storms throughout their life cycle, and view how they change over time. Specifically, the GMI has the capability to measure the amount, size, intensity, and type of precipitation, from heavy-to moderate rain to light rain and snowfall. The DPR returns three-dimensional profiles and intensities of liquid and solid precipitation, revealing the internal structure of storms within and below clouds. Scientists use these instruments to track tropical cyclones and forecast their progression and to verify their tropical cyclone computer models. They also use instrument data to understand the distribution and movement of latent heat throughout the storm, particularly in the development of hot towers in the wall of clouds around the eye, which have been linked to rapid intensification. Together, these instruments will improve hurricane tracking and forecasts, which can help decision makers save lives.

View tropical cyclones articles

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Submerged Houston neighborhoods in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey on August 29, 2017. Credit: Marcus Yam / Getty Images

To better understand and predict floods scientists have developed hydrological models based on how much rainfall occurs and where the water will likely go once it hits the ground. They use several satellite precipitation datasets within these models to provide near real-time estimates of when and where areas may flood on local, regional, and global scales. GPM provides frequent precipitation observations with near global coverage, of which 80% are less than 3 hours apart, exceeding the minimum deemed necessary for hydrometeorological applications. Therefore, rainfall data measured by the GPM Mission and its products, like the Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) data product, helps us better understand how changing precipitation patterns at multiple scales translates changes into hydrologic fluxes and states that can be used for flood detection and warning systems.

View floods articles

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Aerial view of landslide that buried Colonia las Colinas, El Salvador. Credit: USGS

Landslides are one of the most pervasive hazards in the world, resulting in more fatalities and economic damage than is generally recognized. Saturating the soil on vulnerable slopes, intense and prolonged rainfall is the most frequent landslide trigger, but seismicity, river undercutting, freeze-thaw processes, and human activity can also cause extensive and devastating landslides. Understanding where and when landslides have occurred in the past and where they may occur in the future is extremely challenging because of the lack of ground-based sensors at the landslide site to provide both triggering information (e.g. rainfall intensity and duration), and the timing and extent of the mass movement events. Precipitation measurements from remote sensing allows us to gain new insight to identify landslide activity, characterize the triggering patterns of these events spatially and temporally, assess the surface conditions for potential activity, and support the full cycle of disaster risk assessment. In particular, GPM’s more frequent and more detailed coverage of precipitation across the globe can help improve landslide model accuracy and expand potential landslide forecasting capabilities.

Learn more about GPM applications for landslides

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High severity fire in the western U.S. Credit: USDA Forest Service

Wildfires play an integral role in maintaining ecosystem biodiversity and structure.  Wildfires, which include any non-structure fire that occurs in vegetation or natural fuels, is an essential process that connects terrestrial systems to the atmosphere and climate.  However, the effects of fire can be disastrous, both immediately (e.g., poor air quality, loss of life and property) and through post-fire impacts (floods, debris flows/landslides, poor water quality). Wildfires can be triggered by several factors including lightning, high winds, drought, and people. 

There are several ongoing activities using remote sensing data to support pre-, active- and post-fire research, as well as the applicable use of these data and products in support of management decisions and strategies, policy planning and in setting rules and regulations. Frequent precipitation measurements from GPM along with temperature and land cover measurements from other satellites can provide key information to determine the overall dryness of an area and the potential start and spread of a vegetation fire. 

View wildfires articles
 

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GPM's GMI and DPR observe rainfall accumulation over the storm and 3-D vertical structure in a line of intense storms associated with the mesoscale convection system over northern New Mexico and Oklahoma on June 25, 2018. Credit: Hal Pierce (SSAI/NASA GSFC)

 

Many regions in the world experience severe weather such as thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, and blizzards every year. Severe weather usually comes with heavy precipitation and causes unexpected hydrometeorological hazards, such as floods or landslides, which can affect thousands of people, posing a threat on life and property. Therefore, it is critically important to monitor severe weather and estimate heavy precipitation so that the occurrence and intensity of associated hydrometeorological hazards can be well identified, detected, and forecasted. Where ground-based instruments are sparse, remote sensing systems can be especially useful to observe and monitor these extreme events. Microwave sensors used by the GPM Mission allows scientists to map thunderstorm cores to gain insight into storm structures and mesoscale dynamics (e.g. thunderstorms to hurricanes) as well as detect light rain to moderate-to heavy rain and snowfall. Delivery of precipitation data from the GPM Mission is crucial for operational and research organizations to advance precipitation measurement science to improve weather forecasting that can subsequently benefit society for years to come. 

View severe weather articles

 

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Coast Guardsmen use a boat to assist residents during severe flooding around Baton Rouge, LA on August 14, 2016. Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Giles/Coast Guard

Every year, landslides wipe out roads or town, devastating floods put city blocks underwater, or a violent hurricane devastates the coastal communities. Natural hazards, like Hurricane Maria or flooding in Houston, have huge impacts on people around the world. Heavy rains and large storm systems are often significant factors that cause these disasters to have huge economic costs or even kill people. The best defense against natural hazards is accurate and early warning systems. Understanding the timing, location, and intensity of precipitation extremes using GPM data, organizations that handle disaster response and recovery can monitor, assess, and understand the damage or potential damage of a disaster. These efforts help to minimize the impact of a natural disaster as well as effectively coordinate with organizations and the public before, during, after so as many people are safe and needs are met. 

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A house on the Jersey Shore submerged in water in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Credit: Jim Greenhill via BU Today

The insurance and disaster management industries are closely related; dealing with the risk of natural disaster and managing the events following disasters. Reinsurance companies work to understand the need of its potential customers and the risks to which they may be exposed.  A companies’ success is generally tied to the ability to forecast the probability of natural hazards, including storms, floods, and landslides. Earth Science data and information derived from remote sensing instruments over the last decade have made it more feasible to develop climate records and understand region’s susceptibility to a natural disaster. Such data are then used to design payout triggers when natural hazards occurs. Policyholders are then compensated according to the strength of the measured event against those triggers. Specially, reinsurance companies across the world use rainfall data from GPM to develop rainfall thresholds to design insurance payouts when disasters strike. 

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GPM IMERG Measures Rainfall from Tropical Storm Cristobal

This animation shows NASA IMERG rain rates (blue shading) and accumulations (green shading) alongside the NOAA low-pressure center track (red line) of Tropical Storm Amanda/Cristobal. The origin of this storm was in the eastern Pacific Ocean in late May 2020, where it was named Tropical Storm Amanda as it approached the southern Mexican and Central American coast. Amanda made landfall in Guatemala on May 31, where it began to deliver the first of a series of heavy rain pulses that led to flooding in the region. After temporarily stalling over land, the system reformed over the Bay of Campeche on June 1 as Tropical Storm Cristobal and made its second landfall on June 3 in Mexico. The storm continued to deliver several pulses of heavy rainfall to southern Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Some areas of the region accumulated over 60 cm (~2 feet) of rainfall throughout Cristobal's passage. The storm then crossed the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in Louisiana on June 7 and progressed northward as a tropical depression before being classified as an extratropical low pressure system over Wisconsin on June 10. Large swaths of the U.S. Gulf Coast and Midwest as far north as Wisconsin saw accumulations in excess of 10 cm (~4 inches), and some areas along the coasts of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi received over 20 cm (~8 inches), during Cristobal’s passage.

Cristobal Drenches Central America

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is off to a busy start. By the first week of June, Tropical Storm Arthur had already brushed North Carolina, Tropical Storm Bertha had drenched South Carolina, and the third named storm of the year— Cristobal—was dropping torrential rain on the Yucatán Peninsula. The storm first developed in the Pacific in late May as Tropical Storm Amanda, spinning off the southern end of a seasonal low-pressure pattern called the Central American Gyre. After making landfall in Guatemala and causing deadly floods in El Salvador, Amanda weakened and became less organized as

Short-lived Bertha Brings Heavy Rains to Parts of Florida

Bertha was a named storm for just the briefest of periods, becoming a tropical storm on the morning of Wednesday May 27th at 8:30 am EDT just one hour before it made landfall along the South Carolina coast near Charleston. After making landfall, Bertha quickly weakened into a tropical depression and was then accelerated northward by the southerly flow between a deep trough of low pressure over the Mississippi Valley to the west and a ridge of high pressure located just off the US East Coast. Because of this, rainfall totals over the Carolina’s were not very heavy. Bertha’s biggest impact actually occurred when it was still in the formation process, before it became organized enough to be named. On Monday May 25th, a trough of low pressure became established over the Florida Straits, initiating shower and thunderstorm activity in the region. Over the next day, as this trough, which extended eastward over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and eventually led to Bertha, slowly moved northward up the Florida peninsula, it provided a focus for showers and thunderstorms, which brought heavy rains to southeast Florida.
Cyclone Amphan IMERG Rainfall Totals
On May 16, 2020, NASA / JAXA's GPM Core Observatory satellite observed the early stages of Tropical Cyclone Amphan as it tracked north over the Bay of Bengal. The below GPM overpass shows precipitation within Cyclone Amphan a day before it explosively intensified into a category 4-equivalent cyclone. Even at this early stage, Amphan produced heavy rain rates near its center and to its west and southwest. View fullscreen in STORM Event Viewer NASA monitored the heavy rain associated with Tropical Cyclone Amphan as it made landfall at 0900 UTC (2:30 PM local time) on May 20, 2020. Landfall...
Typhoon Vongfong IMERG Rainfall Totals
The first typhoon of the season, Vongfong, struck the central Philippines this past week (where it is known as Ambo) as a strong category 2 storm, bringing strong winds and locally heavy rainfall. Vongfong formed into a tropical depression in the southern Philippine Sea west of Palau on Sunday May 10th from a disturbance that had been slowly making its way westward over the past several days. After becoming a depression, the system moved northward toward the central Philippine Sea and slowly began to intensify. Then, on the 12th when it reached tropical storm intensity, Vongfong’s northward...
Rain Patterns During the Alaska Wildfires
NASA's satellite-based estimate of global precipitation can provide valuable information to officials monitoring the many wildfires in Alaska this summer. Wildfires occur in Alaska each summer, but July 2019 is shaping up to be a particularly active month. Few rain gauges exist in the large tracts of Alaskan wilderness, but wildfires unchecked can spread to populated areas within the state. Satellite-based precipitation estimates are particularly valuable here because of precipitation's relationship to wildfire hazard. The movie shows NASA's IMERG precipitation estimates for May 1 through July...
NASA Rainfall Data and Global Fire Weather
The Global Fire WEather Database (GFWED) integrates different weather factors influencing the likelihood of a vegetation fire starting and spreading. It is based on the Fire Weather Index (FWI) System, which tracks the dryness of three general fuel classes, and the potential behavior of a fire if it were to start. Each day, FWI values are calculated from global weather data, including satellite rainfall data from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission.
Help NASA Create the Largest Landslide Database
Landslides cause thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in property damage each year. Surprisingly, very few centralized global landslide databases exist, especially those that are publicly available. Now NASA scientists are working to fill the gap—and they want your help collecting information.
Modeling Landslide Threats in Near Realtime
For the first time, scientists can look at landslide threats anywhere around the world in near real-time, thanks to satellite data and a new model developed by NASA. The model, developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, estimates potential landslide activity triggered by rainfall. Rainfall is the most widespread trigger of landslides around the world. If conditions beneath Earth's surface are already unstable, heavy rains act as the last straw that causes mud, rocks or debris — or all combined — to move rapidly down mountains and hillsides. A new model has been...
GPM Catches Hurricane Nate's Landfall
NASA's GPM satellite helped track Nate's progress through the Gulf of Mexico and also captured Nate's landfall on the north central Gulf Coast. This animation shows instantaneous rainrate estimates from NASA's Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM or IMERG product over North America and the surrounding waters beginning on Thursday October 5th when Nate first became a tropical storm near the northeast coast of Nicaragua in the western Caribbean until its eventual landfall on the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday October 8th.

GPM captured Dorian at 10:41 UTC (6:41 am EDT) on the 4th of September when the storm was moving north-northwest parallel to the coast of Florida about 90 miles due east of Daytona Beach.  Three days earlier, Dorian had struck the northern Bahamas as one of the most powerful Category 5 hurricanes on record in the Atlantic with sustained winds of 185 mph.  The powerful storm to ravaged the northern Bahamas for 2 full days.  During this time, Dorian began to weaken due to its interactions with the islands as well as the upwelling of cooler ocean waters from having remained in the same location...

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory captured these images of Hurricane Dorian on September 1st  (21:22 UTC) as the storm was directly over Abaco Island in The Bahamas.  At that time, the storm was a category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph (295 km/h) with gusts over 200 mph.

Hurricane Dorian on September 1, 2019 (21:22 UTC) over Abaco Island in The Bahamas

Visualizers: Kel Elkins (lead), Greg Shirah, Alex Kekesi

For more information or to download this public domain video, go to  https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4751#27911

NASA has a unique and important view of hurricanes around the planet. Satellites and aircraft watch as storms form, travel across the ocean and sometimes, make landfall. After the hurricanes have passed, the satellites and aircraft see the aftermath of hurricanes, from downed forests to mass power loss. Complete transcript available.

Music credit: "Northern Breeze" by Denis Levaillant [SACEM], "Stunning Horizon" by Maxime Lebidois [SACEM], Ronan Maillard [SACEM], "Magnetic Force" by JC Lemay [SACEM] from Killer Tracks

This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations...

On February 27, 2019, we celebrate five years in orbit for the NASA/JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement mission, or GPM. Launched from Japan on February 27, 2014, GPM has changed the way we see precipitation. It has provided unprecedented three-dimensional views of precipitation light rain to intense thunderstorms. To mark its five years, we're looking back at five big moments in GPM's history of observing storms. Music provided by Killer Tracks: "Life Defrosts," "Revolutions Are Infinite," "Formulas and Equations" Complete transcript available.

This video is public domain and along with...

NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core observatory satellite flew over Tropical Storm John on August 6, 2018.   GPM showed that the large tropical cyclone was becoming well organized and had intense rainfall within feeder bands that were spiraling toward John's center. GPM's radar (DPR Ku Band) revealed that a band of powerful storms northeast of John's center were dropping rain at a rate of close to 160 mm (6.3 inches) per hour.

The GPM Core Observatory carries two instruments that show the location and intensity of rain and snow, which defines a crucial part of the...

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