Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Map of slope-failure locations in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

August 22, 2019

In Puerto Rico, tens of thousands of landslides, slumps, debris flows, rock falls, and other slope failures were triggered by Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on 20 September 2017. "Landslide" is used here and below to represent all types of slope failures. This dataset is a point shapefile of landslide headscarps identified across Puerto Rico using georeferenced aerial and satellite imagery recorded following the hurricane. The imagery used includes publicly available aerial imagery obtained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA; Quantum Spatial, Inc., 2017), aerial imagery obtained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA; NOAA, 2017), and several WorldView satellite imagery datasets available from DigitalGlobe, Inc. The FEMA imagery was recorded by Sanborn and Quantum Spatial, Inc. between 25 September and 27 October 2017, has a pixel resolution of approximately 15 cm, and includes over 6,000 image tiles that cover approximately 97% of the large island and 100% of Vieques. The NOAA imagery was recorded 22-26 September 2017, also has a resolution of approximately 15 cm, and covers about 10% of the large island, 60% of Vieques, and 100% of Culebra. The DigitalGlobe imagery used in this project was recorded during September-November 2017, has a pixel resolution of approximately 50 cm, and covers approximately 99% of the large island and 35% of Vieques. DigitalGlobe images were acquired via the DigitalGlobe Open Data Program, the DigitalGlobe Foundation imagery grant, and via partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey. No imagery was examined for Desecheo, Mona, Monito, Caja de Muertos, or other smaller islands.The FEMA imagery was usually used first for landslide mapping due to its high resolution and more accurate georeferencing. For almost every location, there were multiple images available due to overlap in each dataset and overlap between different datasets. This overlap was helpful when clouds or shadows obscured the view of the ground surface in one or more images for a given location. Additional oblique and un-georeferenced aerial imagery recorded by the Civil Air Patrol (ArcGIS, 2017) was consulted, if needed. Comparing the post-event imagery with pre-event imagery available through the ESRI ArcGIS basemap layer and/or Google Earth was useful to accurately identify sites that failed during September 2017; such comparisons were made for landslides that appeared potentially older. Some landslides in our inventory may have occurred prior to Hurricane Maria - potentially triggered by Hurricane Irma which passed northeast of Puerto Rico two weeks earlier - or between the time of the hurricane and when photographs were taken. UTM Zone 19N projection with WGS 84 datum was used throughout the mapping process. The inventory process began with creation of a first draft by a team of 15 people. This draft was subsequently checked for quality and revised by the three leaders of the mapping effort. Each identified landslide is represented by a point located at the center of its headscarp. The horizontal position of headscarp points was carefully selected using multiple overlapping images (usually available) and other geospatial datasets including lidar acquired during 2015 and available from the U.S. Geological Survey 3DEP program, the U.S. Census Bureau TIGER road shapefile, and the National Hydrology Dataset flowline shapefile. Mapping was generally performed at 1:1000 scale. Given errors in georeferencing and landslides poorly resolved in imagery, we conclude that headscarp point locations are generally accurate within 3 m. Municipality (municipio) and barrio names in which each landslide occurred are included in the attribute table of the shapefile, as are the geographic coordinates of each point in decimal degrees (WGS 84 datum). Landslides were identified in 72 of the 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico. No landslides were documented on the island municipalities of Culebra or Vieques. On the main island of Puerto Rico, 64% of land experienced 0-3 landslides per square kilometer, 26% experienced 3-25 landslides per square kilometer, and 10% experienced more than 25 landslides per square kilometer. Concentrated zones of more than 100 landslides per square kilometer are in the municipalities of Maricao, Utuado, Jayuya, and Corozal. Of the ten barrios where more than 100 landslides per square kilometer were catalogued, eight are in Utuado. The drainage basins with the highest density of landslides are the Rio Grande de Arecibo and Rio Grande de Anasco watersheds, each with over 30 landslides per square kilometer. Six out of the seven sub-basins with more than 50 landslides per square kilometer are in the Rio Grande de Arecibo basin. We identified and mapped 71,431 landslides in total. This map of slope failure locations was created using the same imagery used to create a preliminary map of landslide concentration (Bessette-Kirton et al., 2017) and should be considered an advancement of that effort. An updated landslide concentration map for Hurricane Maria could be created using the point shapefile in this data release. The College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez is thanked for providing release time to K.S. Hughes to permit partial development of this dataset. References ArcGIS, 2017, CAP Imagery - Hurricane Maria:…. Last accessed 18 June 2019. Bessette-Kirton, E.K., Coe, J.A., Godt, J.W., Kean, J.W., Rengers, F.K., Schulz, W.H., Baum, R.L., Jones, E.S., and Staley, D.M., 2017, Map data showing concentration of landslides caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico: U.S. Geological Survey data release, NOAA, 2017, Hurricane MARIA Imagery: Last accessed 18 June 2019. Quantum Spatial, Inc., 2017, FEMA PR Imagery: Last accessed 18 June 2019.