The NASA Disasters Program promotes the use of Earth observations to improve the prediction of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from natural and technological disasters. By sponsoring application science, the Program advances the readiness of results to enable disaster management practices, advance damage reduction, and build resilience. The Program targets a spectrum of disasters, including floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides as well as combined hazards and cascading impacts. The geospatial intelligence and tools on local, regional, and global scales support a community of disaster stakeholders. This is achieved by facilitating timely access to reliable, relevant data and data products, focusing on the utility of information, maps, and models, and ensuring delivery in useable and understandable formats for incident response, emergency management, and recovery teams. The Disasters Program creates partnerships where applied research is necessary for developing and deploying next-generation technology, as well as airborne and satellite assets, while stimulating research and analysis to better understand and describe hazards. 

Our research program continually advances new science and techniques for situational awareness. New flood and inundation models provide guidance on the extent and depth of water impacts, whether from extreme rain and flash floods, to seasonal storms and hurricanes.  Novel earthquake models and maps describe the magnitude and extent of the geophysical impact, as well as aftershock likelihood and the threat of tsunamis.  Mapping hotspots for volcano gaseous emissions and ash plumes, oil spills and debris, as well as the extent of dispersion and flows, are also targets of the program. From utilizing the newest synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites for mapping earthquake, flood, and typhoon damage, to repurposing global positioning technologies for infrastructure and coastal monitoring, as well as acquiring visible light and day/night images of disaster zones, our team develops unique capabilities to assess impacts and inform actionable decisions.

When disasters occur, our researchers become providers and distributors of images, data, and damage assessments. The Disasters team and network of partners and volunteers assist with hazard assessment, evaluation of severity, and identification of impacts near vulnerable infrastructure, crops, and lifelines, and—especially in remote areas where observations are sparse—provides guidance for action. From the perennial eruptions of Alaska’s Mount Pavlof, to the 2015 earthquake and landslide disaster in Nepal, our program mobilizes scientists and collaborators to ready new methods of detecting, evaluating, and predicting disasters and their social, cultural, and economic consequences with the goal of reducing risk and strengthening resilience. 

  • Dr. David Green, Program Manager, NASA HQ
  • John Murray, Associate Program Manager, LaRC