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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Draper, MIT Model Could Predict Landslides

Landslides, which can destroy entire communities and are on the rise due to climate change, are more often caused by rainfall accumulated over long periods than single storms. Engineers at Draper Laboratory and MIT are working under contract to NASA to develop a statistical model that can identify areas where landslides are most likely to occur so that preparations can be made to better respond to a crisis.
“By accurately predicting where landslides are most likely to occur, we can initiate timely preventive measures that will save lives and prevent property damage,” said Natasha Markuzon, Draper’s lead technical investigator.
The study found that when cumulative precipitation is high and the underlying soil is saturated with moisture, a few days of heavy rain increases the probability of landslide occurrences. However, if the underlying soil has not been saturated by months of consistent precipitation, then an intense storm is relatively harmless. Markuzon suggests a possible explanation for this finding is the soil underneath was eroded from months of consistent rain, leaving the ground unstable.

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