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. 

Photograph of a landslide on a mountain.
Landslides are one of the most pervasive hazards in the world, resulting in more fatalities and economic damage than is generally recognized. Every year they block roads, damage infrastructure, and cause thousands of fatalities. Intense and prolonged rainfall is the most frequent landslide trigger around the world, but earthquakes and human influence can also cause significant and widespread landsliding. Using satellite data, we can identify the conditions under which landslides typically occur, helping to improve monitoring and modeling of these hazards
Landslide Risk in High Mountain Asia
More frequent and intense rainfall events due to climate change could cause more landslides in the High Mountain Asia region of China, Tibet and Nepal, according to the first quantitative study of the link between precipitation and landslides in the region. The model shows landslide risk for High Mountain Asia increasing in the summer months in the years 2061-2100, thanks to increasingly frequent and intense rainfall events. Summer monsoon rains can destabilize steep mountainsides, triggering landslides. Credits: NASA's Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens High Mountain Asia stores more fresh...
GPM Data Mitigates Landslide Risks in Bangladesh
Camp managers and other local officials overseeing Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are now incorporating NASA satellite observations into their decision making in order to reduce the risk to refugees from landslides and other natural hazards. Information like daily rain totals can help inform how to lay out refugee camps and store supplies. More than 740,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017. Many of them have sought shelter in camps located in the hilly countryside, where landslide risk may be the greatest. Increasing this danger is Bangladesh’s intense monsoon season. Approximately 80 percent of Bangladesh's yearly rain falls in just five months, from June to October, bringing with it an increased risk of flash flooding and landslides.
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...
As farmers in Nepal prepare for the benefits of monsoon season, Dalia Kirschbaum anticipates the dangers of those torrential rains—mainly, the loosening of earth on steep slopes that can lead to landslides. In this mountainous country, 60 to 80 percent of the annual precipitation falls during the monsoon (roughly June to August). That’s when roughly 90 percent of Nepal’s landslide fatalities also occur, according to a 2015 report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “We know a high number of landslides occur around this time, so documenting them is...
Aerial photo of 2010 landslide in Gansu, China
By Lisa-Natalie Anjozian, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Original Press Release (published 11/27/12) A NASA study using TRMM satellite data revealed that the year 2010 was a particularly bad year for landslides around the world. Around midnight on August 8, 2010, a violent surge of loosened earth roared down mountain slopes and slammed into quietly sleeping neighborhoods in Zhouqu County in Gansu, China. The catastrophic mudslides—the deadliest in decades according to state media—buried some areas under as much as 23 feet (7 meters) of suffocating sludge. 1,765 people died...