Natural Hazards


How can remote sensing and wavelet transform unravel natural and anthropogenic ground motion processes?

How can remote sensing and wavelet transform unravel natural and anthropogenic ground motion processes?

Underground energy storage and gas storage in aquifers

In the context of energy transition, massive energy storage is a key issue for the integration of renewable sources into the energy mix. Storing energy in the underground can lead to larger-scale, longer-term and safer solutions than above-ground energy storage technologies. In particular, natural gas storages are designed to address different needs, like a strategic natural gas reserve, the regulation of gas supply and the answer to a seasonal peak heating or electricity demand. Energy companies routinely store gas in underground reservoirs known as “gas aquifers”, which then become gigantic natural tanks for injecting and extracting gases for energy needs. The natural gas is compressed and injected through wells into selected reservoirs, usually constituted of sand layers containing water, which is automatically forced out. The gas is then extracted from the same wells and the water can naturally flow back into the sand, maintaining equilibrium. Natural gas is stored from May to September when the demand is lower and withdrawn from October to April when the demand is higher.

Figure 1 – Location map showing a Sentinel-1 acquisition (2016) in Southwestern France (Aquitaine Basin) (colour image), a 25 km cell used by SMOS satellite (black square) that contains the reservoir isobaths of a gas storage site (red lines).

Integrated monitoring of a gas storage site

For risk prevention and environmental protection purposes, it is essential to check the integrity of the natural reservoirs used for underground storage and how they respond to the annual natural gas injection and extraction cycles. [Read More]

I-REACT – ‘Fight disasters with your phone’

I-REACT – ‘Fight disasters with your phone’

Technology has never been more at hand than at the time we are living. Smartphones and the many apps on the market are proof of this. As I recently discovered, there is also an app developed to learn about natural hazards and, as they claim, fight disasters! This app is called I-REACT, and it was born from a homonymous innovation project funded by the European Commission and developed by a consortium of 20 partners. Their aim?

use social media, smartphones and wearables to improve disaster management

Of course, when I found out about the project, I curiously downloaded the app and started playing around with it, trying to figure out what it does and how it works. I have to say that I haven’t had the chance of reporting a disaster yet (and hopefully I won’t have even in the future), but I can say I find it user-friendly and exciting. Let’s get a bit more into details and understand this project and the app directly from the I-REACT Team!

Hi I-REACT Team! Can you tell us about who you are and how the I-REACT idea was born?

My name is Fabrizio Dominici. I’m Head of Data Science at LINKS Foundation and coordinator of I-REACT. I-REACT is an innovation project that uses big data, social media, smartphones and wearables to improve disaster management.

The project was born in 2016, within a European Commission call for proposals for more resilient and secure societies. We joined together 20 partners that are among the top experts to create a unified system for disaster management that responds to the needs of the three main actors in a disaster situation: emergency responders, decision-makers and citizens (all of ‘us’, Ed.).

The main idea of the project is to offer each one of us the best tools to prevent and face disasters. And in this context, I-REACT, as a project, provides a big data platform that crosses over inputs from different sources: satellites, social media, weather forecasts and much more. This, joined with a Decision Support System, is a crucial companion for emergency responders and decision makers.

For citizens, we developed the I-REACT app, which empowers them against disasters.

[Read More]

InSAR Norway: the big eye on Norwegian unstable rock slopes

InSAR Norway: the big eye on Norwegian unstable rock slopes

Marie Keiding is a researcher in the Geohazard and Earth Observation team at the Geological Survey of Norway. Together with her colleague, John Dehls, who is leading the project, she works to develop and operate the new mapping service called InSAR Norway.

Before we start, let’s briefly describe what is InSAR. First, the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is a day and night operational imaging system that can be operated from satellite aircraft or ground and has high capabilities of penetrating clouds because it uses microwaves. Its ‘interferometric configuration’, Interferometric SAR or InSAR, uses two or more SAR images to generate maps of surface deformation or digital elevation models. This is made by calculating differences in the phase of the waves returning to the sensor, as a function of the satellite position and time of acquisition.

Measurements of phase variations are possible only in those pixels of the image where the signal maintains a sufficient coherence between different acquisitions. For this reason, InSAR techniques are particularly suitable to monitor relatively small deformations, in the order of millimetres to centimetres.

Hi Marie, can you tell what is InSAR Norway?

InSAR Norway is the first free and open, nationwide, [Read More]

Mapping population dynamics to advance Disaster Risk Management

Mapping population dynamics to advance Disaster Risk Management


Today we have the honour to introduce Sérgio Freire as our guest. Sérgio Freire is a Geographer, currently working as Scientific/Technical Project Manager at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), Directorate E. Space, Security and Migration, Disaster Risk Management Unit, based in Ispra, Italy. His main activities focus on developing applications of the JRC’s Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) in the context of disaster exposure, risk, and vulnerability analysis, including modelling population distribution at a range of spatial and temporal resolutions. Current activities also include global mapping and characterisation of human settlements, and developing satellite-based indicators to support monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals.



  1. When we think about disasters, we firstly mean natural hazards characteristics. However, potential harm comes even from vulnerability and exposure. Can you please explain to us what these elements are and which role they play in the risk equation?


In fact, natural hazards are ‘normal’ acts of nature that are part of the living planet that is Earth.

These only make the news and become disasters when they affect people (or property, systems) that display vulnerabilities to those specific phenomena. A strong earthquake in the middle of the Sahara desert may have little or no impacts due to scarce population and settlements, i.e., the absence of exposure. On the other hand, an earthquake of comparable magnitude occurring in cities of dissimilar countries may cause very different impacts and casualties due to the divergent structural vulnerabilities of built-up structures. However, for extreme events or hazards above a certain magnitude, exposure is a major driver of impacts.

Figure 1. Evolution of global population exposed to the highest seismic hazard, by decade. Bars refer to the total population in Modified Mercalli Intensity levels VIII to XII (right axis) and lines refer to percent population change relative to the previous period (left axis) (Source: Freire S., D. Ehrlich, S. Ferri, 2015. Population Exposure and Impacts from Earthquakes: Assessing Spatio-temporal Changes in the XX Century. Computer Modeling in Engineering & Sciences (CMES), SI: ‘Modeling of dangerous phenomena for risk mitigation’. Vol.109(2): 159-182)


[Read More]