GEO Contributing to the Surveillance of Areas Prone to Natural Hazards

Monday, 17 February 2014
Columbus EF (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Stephen Briggs , GEO Supersite Global Initiative , Frascati, Italy
The need for a coordinated effort managing risks stemming from Natural Hazards is evident from the staggering figures. For instance, in Europe, the volcanic ash cloud crisis, from 15 to 21 April 2010, led to the cancelation of 100.000 flights in Europe (54% of total flights), with an impact on the world economy of approximately €3 billion. It is estimated that ten million passengers were blocked at airports during a period of six days.

Agence France Presse has reported that, overall in 2010, disaster events caused the death of almost 300000 people, affected another 220 million and resulted in more than $120 billion of economic damages. While 2011 saw a drop in fatalities, the economic damages tripled to over $366 billion. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 2011 alone accounted for over half of these damages. By 2050, the number of people exposed to storms and earthquakes in large cities could double, underlining the need for better geohazards related information for improved Disaster Risk Management (DRM).

Earth Observations (EO) of geologically active sites prone to natural hazards, has a major role to play in contributing to the understanding, mitigation, preparedness and management of geophysical risks.

The International Charter on 'Space and Major Disasters', a body comprising all major agencies operating space EO infrastructures, commits resources for activating quick responses the disaster areas, and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) managed by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) provides access to a number of existing and emerging services, data sets, and products in support of all phases of the risk management cycle (mitigation, preparedness, early warning, response and recovery).

A major contribution is the provision of relevant EO data to scientists who can use the observations to develop a better understanding of the underlying processes with the aim to better inform risk management. Scientists benefit from improved data availability and in return can support the development of GEOSS so that it meets their needs. In particular the GEO Supersites initiative, which provides focussed observations on areas prone for natural hazards, makes a major contribution towards an effective natural DRM.  EO data of solid Earth dynamic processes controlling natural phenomena will be made immediately available promoting their comparison with numerical simulations and their interpretation through theoretical analyses which will foster scientific excellence in solid Earth research.

The presentation will give examples of how international efforts like GEO are fostering the improvement of natural DRM through integrating spaceborne and in-situ EO data.