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Disaster Articles

On September 16, 2020, fires blazed in the western U.S. causing aerosols to spread across the continent (see in dark red) and 4 cyclonic storms churned in the Atlantic. Wildfires and tropical storms wreak havoc on communities. Visualization of aerosol optical depth and brightness temperature from the Suomi NPP OMPS and VIIRS instruments respectively.

On September 16, 2020, fires blazed in the western U.S. causing aerosols to spread across the continent (see in dark red) and 4 cyclonic storms churned in the Atlantic. Wildfires and tropical storms wreak havoc on communities. Visualization of aerosol optical depth and brightness temperature from the Suomi NPP OMPS and VIIRS instruments respectively.

NASA has numerous datasets and resources for monitoring disasters. The Disasters Data Pathfinder, geared for new users, provides direct links to commonly-used datasets and links to tools for visualizing and analyzing the data.

Disasters of all kinds, from cyclonic storms to earthquakes to extreme heat, affect millions of people around the world. As climate changes, scientists expect more and more extreme events, exacerbating the impacts of natural and human-induced hazards. With the information acquired from both ground-based and satellite-based data, decision makers are able to monitor and respond to events.

These articles, many from the Sensing Our Planet series, highlight some of these efforts. To meet some of the scientists using Earthdata for disaster-related research and applications, see our Data User Profiles.

Most Recent

Improving Hurricane Forecasts with Near Real-Time Imagery and Data
Scientists at NASA's Short-Term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) project use near real-time data to help the operational weather community with hurricane forecasting. (2020)

Articles by Subject Area

Cyclones | Earthquakes | Extreme Heat | Floods | Landslides | Tools and Technology | Volcanoes


The researcher the reef and a storm
Can marine reserves protect Earth’s underwater nurseries? (2016)

Time and tide
Scientists pit nature against nature to protect New Yorkers from storms. (2016)

Profiles in intensity
Unmanned aircraft probe the secrets of hurricanes. (2014)

Once more into the storm
Hurricane researchers return, asking new questions. (2011)

Saharan dust versus Atlantic hurricanes
A unique campaign allows scientists to study the effects of Saharan dust storms on Atlantic hurricane development. (2007)

Data more powerful than hurricanes
New ways of looking at data help storm forecasters and emergency managers solve challenges and prevent hurricane losses. (2006)

Stirring up Life
Using data from three satellite instruments, researchers find that a tropical cyclone had a significant effect on phytoplankton production in the South China Sea. (2004)

Dropping in on a Hurricane
CAMEX-4 team embarked on a campaign to study hurricane development, tracking, and landfall impacts. (2002)

Forecasting Fury
Cyclone Eline slammed into the southeast African coastal nation of Mozambique, washing away an entire fishing village and leaving some 800,000 people dead or homeless. (2001)

In the Eyewall of the Storm
CAMEX-3 turns its focus to hurricane tracking and intensification. (2001)

Hurricane Field Studies
As hurricane-forecasting techniques have improved, the loss of life due to severe storms has steadily declined. (1998)


Warnings from the ionosphere
GPS may be able to pace tsunamis. (2017)

Sizing a tsunami
GPS helps scientists quickly forecast massive waves. (2013)

On shaky ground
The major earthquake in Haiti shifts thinking about disaster planning. (2010)

Making Waves in Tsunami Research
Data from Jason and TOPEX/Poseidon give scientists the first detailed profile of a major tsunami event. (2005)

Silent Signals
Synthetic aperture radar data and scientists in detecting the ground deformation associated with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. (2005)

Denalis Fault
InSAR produces a map of surface changes caused by the earthquake. (2003)

Squeezing Water from Rock
Studying modern earthquakes that produce liquefaction can help better interpret the geologic record of liquefaction during past events. (2003)

Extreme Heat

Feeling hot hot hot
Cities grapple with heat waves. (2016)

Seeing the City for the Trees
Researchers map vegetation and analyze the heat island effect in the urban landscape. (2004)


Stormy vineyards
New methods help Argentinian farmers brace for bad weather. (2015)

A kink in the jet stream
Extreme weather events thousands of miles apart may be linked. (2012)

The Flood Hunters
Researchers develop a long-term archive of satellite data that will help hydrologists monitor floods, allow aid agencies to pinpoint flood-prone regions, and provide information for modeling some of the Earth's complex hydrologic cycles. (2004)

Flame & Flood
Phoenix, AZ's scenic terrain that attracts homeowners is also prone to brush fires and flooding. (2003)


Waiting for Gojal
Scientists and satellites hold vigil on a newborn lake in Pakistan. (2011)

Connecting rainfall and landslides
Scientists use satellites to plot heavy rainfall and help assess landslide and flood hazards. (2007)

When Land Slides
Summer of 2001 was a season of devastating landslides. (2001)

Tools and Technology

What is Synthetic Aperture Radar?
SAR is a type of active data collection where a sensor produces its own energy capturing data through clouds and during the night. (2020)

Explore 20 Years of Rain and Snowfall Data from NASA’s Precipitation Missions
A new data product merges data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, giving meteorologists and researchers access to a 20-year precipitation record. (2020)

Fusing Five Satellite Instruments' Data Into One Dataset: Introducing Terra Fusion
Terra Fusion, a new data product and toolkit, allows researchers to combine data from all five Terra instruments into one cohesive dataset. (2020)

Daymet Data Take the Planet’s Pulse
Daymet data from NASA’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center (ORNL DAAC) provide almost 40 years of weather measurements for North America and are ORNL DAAC’s most popular products. (2018)

NASA Earth Observing Data and Imagery for the Nepal Earthquake
Explore and download data and imagery from EOSDIS for the Nepalese region affected by the earthquake on April 25, 2015 and aftershocks. (2015)

New Nepal interferogram from the Alaska Satellite Facility DAAC
Ground deformation caused by the April 25 Nepal earthquake is clearly visible in this new interferogram processed from Sentinel-1A data by ASF DAAC scientists Franz Meyer and Wenyu Gong. (2015)

Gridding the risks of natural disasters
A new global data set and publication reveal the locations of the world's natural disaster hotspots. (2006)


Under CATS eyes
Tracking a volcanic plume reaches new heights, faster. (2018)

Shake rattle and sink
Volcanoes find earthquakes quite unsettling. (2014)

Not so big not so hot
Yellowstone is a kind of tutorial for volcano monitoring. (2013)

Experiment in the sky
A train of satellites follows the atmospheric effects of a volcanic eruption. (2009)

Sensing Remote Volcanoes
Using SAR satellite imagery to analyze how the eruption deformed the ground on and around the volcano. (2004)

Domes of Destruction
ASTER data to monitor a volcanic dome surface, including temperature, chemistry, and texture, over a period of six months to a year. (2002)

Life on the Brink
Quantitative estimates of the spatial distribution of population living on active volcanoes. (2001)

Data User Profiles

Dr. Emily Berndt studies how to improve short-term forecasts of high-impact weather.

Dr. Xiaofeng Li uses Earth science data to study atmospheric and oceanic processes.

Rowena Lohman studies earthquake physics, satellite remote sensing, finite element modeling, ground displacements from a variety of anthropogenic and natural causes.

Dr. Mike Ramsey uses Earth science data to developing new ways to study active volcanoes and to provide data to support emergency response.

Dave Jones enables NASA near real-time Earth observing data (vital to emergency response) to be used collaboratively in real time across platforms by emergency responders and managers.

Dr. Pierre Kirstetter uses NASA Earth science data for improving our understanding of precipitation and flooding.

Dr. Brian Mapes uses NASA Earth science data? Dr. Brian Mapes, to study large-scale weather and climate processes.

Dr. Bernard Hubbard uses NASA Earth science data to help locate mineral resources and assess natural hazards.

Lela Prashad explores how people live in and experience urban environments.

Dr. Faisal Hossain uses NASA Earth observing data to improve water management and accelerate economic development in Asia and Southeast Asia, where water is integral to their livelihood.

Dr. Philip Thompson uses NASA Earth science data to explore how—and when—the global average sea level rising will affect vulnerable communities.

Dr. Kristy Tiampo uses NASA Earth science data to explore the hazards that can impact urban environments, where more than half of Earth’s population lives.

Explore more Data User Profiles

Published September 25, 2020

Page Last Updated: Nov 23, 2020 at 4:13 PM EST