04 June 2016

Forecasting landslides: Systems analysis gives the bigger picture

Options Magazine Summer 2016: Dalia Kirschbaum, YSSP'06 alumna, applies systems analysis and citizen science to the study of landslides at NASA

© NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

© NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Of all the natural disasters which can sweep away life and property, landslides are among the most difficult to forecast. They result from complex interactions between rainfall, the land’s surface, and the soil structure. However, the increasing availability of remote‑sensing data is driving new research into the development of more effective landslide assessment systems.

Dalia Kirschbaum is a Young Scientists Summer Program alumna who had combined research into multiple hazards with economics but soon found herself focusing on landslides. “I felt there was an opportunity to apply remote sensing data to landslides in new and different ways,” says the scientist, who now works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US.

At IIASA in 2006, Kirschbaum found that systems analysis enabled her to look at “the question of disasters, hazards, and their impact from the economic perspective, from the insurance perspective, from the people who have to make decisions for emergency response.”

At NASA Kirschbaum now applies her IIASA experience to developing a web‑based interface for visualizing landslide hazards. She says the more complex the problem, the greater the need for systems analysis. “We’ve already seen how land use has had an impact on landslides. The challenge now is in seeing how landslide frequency, or even occurrence, is going to change.” To fill in the data gaps, Kirschbaum plans to leverage the expertise of researchers and citizen scientists to create a global landslide database. She says it’s about understanding the bigger picture—”and that’s really what I got out of my experience at IIASA.”

Text by Kerry Skyring

Print this page

Last edited: 21 August 2017


Tanja Huber

YSSP Coordinator & Team Leader

Young Scientists Summer Program

T +43(0) 2236 807 344


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313