CATHALAC Launches Regional Landslide Risk Prediction Tool for Mesoamerica

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CATHALAC has developed a first of its kind tool for the prediction of landslide hazards in Mesoamerica, in order to provide the region with much needed early warning capacities. The tool utilizes a range of earth observation data inputs, including data from weather forecast models. It is hoped that widespread use of the tool will lead to minimization of the loss of life and property.

CATHALAC, landslides, disasters, GIS, remote sensing, satellite imagery

Decision-makers in Mesoamerica can now count on this first of its kind tool for predicting landslide hazards

The tool will provide early warning for landslide events in Mesoamerica, potentially minimizing the loss of life and property.

The Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) has recently developed an automated, online tool for predicting landslide hazards in Mesoamerica, a first of its kind effort at the regional level. The tool will provide early warning for landslide events in Mesoamerica, a region highly vulnerable to extreme meteorological events, and to the flooding, and landslides that such events trigger. It is hoped that such early warning will help in minimizing the loss of life and property.

The hazard prediction uses the Mora-Vahrson methodology to determine landslide hazards at the level of detail of 1 square km. Updating itself each day, the tool indicates the potential for landslide hazards over each 24 hour window into the future, grading such potential into ‘very low,’ ‘low,’ ‘medium,’ ‘moderate,’ ‘high,’ and ‘very high.’ The complex modeling behind the landslide hazard prediction uses a combination of data on lithology, soil moisture, and topographic slope, along with the rainfall forecasts that CATHALAC generates daily using the PSU/NCAR mesoscale model, MM5. Following the initial implementation phase, CATHALAC will be adding enhanced functionality to the tool. The tool was also based on a prototype developed earlier, in late 2010 for Honduras and Nicaragua, in the context of the Mesoamerican Regional Visualization & Monitoring System (SERVIR, see, jointly implemented with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), NASA, and other partners.

CATHALAC's development of the tool follows on the footsteps of the Center’s involvement in climatologic, environmental, and geo-physical modeling over the past decade and dovetails with CATHALAC’s mission of promoting sustainable development in Latin America & the Caribbean through applied research & development, education, and technology transfer. In addition to implementing SERVIR in Mesoamerica since 2005, CATHALAC has also served since 2010 as a Regional Support Office (RSO) of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER). Under the mandate of the 2009 Presidential Summit of the Tuxla Mechanism, the Center has also been implementing the Mesoamerican Territorial Information System (SMIT) platform for disaster risk reduction, in the context of the Proyecto Mesoamerica initiative. The landslide hazard modeling depends heavily on earth observation data, and CATHALAC has likewise served as a participating organization in the inter-governmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) since 2007.

For more information about CATHALAC, please visit The landslide hazard prediction tool can be accessed through CATHALAC’s Geo-Viewer at: (under the ‘Actualidad’ menu item). A version for Google Earth is also available via:

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