GRSG Conference 2022: Orbit to Outcrop

Title: How can we help? Using satellite imagery to assist communities in the aftermath of natural hazards: A case study of the 2021 Haiti Nippes Earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace

Author: Aline Déprez


Following the passage of a natural disaster, Earth observation data covering the impacted region can aid in the response effort by providing situational awareness and a basis for triage to emergency responders. This is particularly the case where the natural disaster was spatially expansive, such as earthquake damage, widespread landsliding, and large-scale flooding. For example, in August 2021, the M7.2 Nippes Earthquake struck the Tiburon Peninsula of western Haiti, affecting at least 800,000 people and resulting in over 2,200 fatalities, 12,000 injuries, and 137,000 damaged structures.

Two to three days later, Tropical Storm Grace passed by the same region, dropping over 250mm of rainfall and triggering immense landsliding. Due to the close timing between events, it is difficult to discern the discrete trigger for a given landslide; however, over 12,000 landslides from the combined events have been mapped.

Following both the Earthquake and the Tropical Storm, international disaster response agencies began acquiring, processing, and collecting Earth observation data over Haiti to evaluate for damages. This case study presents results from the University of Strasbourg (France), NASA (USA), and BGC Engineering (Canada) in the context of disaster response. Results were delivered to the public via public-facing portals or via delivery to the International Disaster Charter (IDC) and the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS).

Open data processing methods were employed in all examples; however, data sources included restricted and fully open access. Merits of data source accessibility, processing methods, and delivery and accuracy of results are discussed. Additionally, this work presents learnings on the coordination between international agencies following a large-scale natural disaster.