Natural Hazards

Natural hazards have the potential to be serious threats to the well-being of Canadians. The outcome can be catastrophic, often resulting in damage to critical infrastructure and the environment, injury to humans, and even loss of life.

With the goal of enhancing the safety and security of Canadians, Scientists at the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation-CCMEO (formerly Canada Centre for Remote Sensing-CCRS) have been developing techniques using satellite data to better understand, map and monitor natural hazards such as landslides and flooding.

Scientists are working across Canada with satellite interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or satellite InSAR, to measure slope movement and terrain stability on the order of millimetres. Examples of this research include:

Figure 1
Radar target attached to rock

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Text Version - Figure 1

Radar target installed on a hazardous slope in eastern Canada. Space-borne radar satellites, like Canada’s RADARSAT-2, precisely measure small changes in the movement of artificial radar targets like these to monitor the stability of slopes, and the deformation of the surface due to natural processes (e.g. permafrost melt) and human activities (e.g. mining). Photo by C. Prévost, NRCan. #2014-040

InSAR monitoring of permafrost activity, NWT, Canada PDFKB

In addition, since 2006, CCMEO’ Emergency Geomatics Service (EGS) has been using satellite SAR imagery to derive near-real time, synoptic flood extent products during major flooding events. These products provide emergency responders at a range of levels and jurisdictions with critical information required for the response phase of the emergency management cycle.

EGS responds to federal requests for assistance through Public Safety Canada and the Department of National Defence.

More information on EGS activities can be found here:

Future satellites such as the RADARSAT Constellation Mission and Sentinel 1 will enable more frequent and improved monitoring of ground movement and landslide areas as well as floods.