Landslides constitute a major geologic hazard because they are widespread, occur in all 50 states and U.S. territories, and cause $1-2 billion in damages and more than 25 fatalities on average each year. Expansion of urban and recreational developments into hillside areas leads to more people that are threatened by landslides each year.
The Landslide Hazards Program (LHP) supports the USGS mission to serve the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters. The LHP's mission is to provide information that leads to the reduction of losses from landslides and an increase in public safety through improved understanding of landslide hazards and strategies for hazard mitigation. In pursuit of the program mission, the LHP conducts landslide hazard assessments, pursues landslide investigations and forecasts, provides technical assistance to respond to landslide emergencies, and engages in outreach activities.
Landslides constitute a major geologic hazard because they are widespread, occur in all 50 states and U.S. territories, and cause $1-2 billion in damages and more than 25 fatalities on average each year. Expansion of urban and recreational developments into hillside areas leads to more people that are threatened by landslides each year. Landslides commonly occur in connection with other major natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires, and floods.
The primary objective of the National Landslide Hazards Program (LHP) is to reduce long-term losses from landslide hazards by improving our understanding of the causes of ground failure and suggesting mitigation strategies.
The LHP has operated since the mid-1970's in gathering information, conducting research, responding to emergencies and disasters, and producing scientific reports and other products for a broadly based user community including geologists and engineers in government, academia and private practice, planners and decision-makers from governmental entities at all levels, and the general public.
The results of these efforts have led to significant improvements in understanding the nature and scope of ground-failure problems nationally and worldwide. Such improvements are central to the role of the program because opportunities remain for fundamental advances in understanding that promise to save lives and dollars.
Enactment of the National Landslide Preparedness Act (P.L. 116-323)
On January 5, 2021 the National Landslide Preparedness Act (P.L. 116-323) was signed into law; it authorized a national landslide hazards reduction program and a 3D elevation program within the USGS. This broadened the already existing Landslide Hazards Program under the Natural Hazards Mission Area, and the 3D Elevation Program under the National Geospatial Program and required additional coordination with other federal agencies.
Research & Goals
Research on landslide hazards addresses fundamental questions of where and when landslides are likely to occur; the size, speed, and effects of landslides; and how to avoid or mitigate those effects. Such research is essential if the LHP is to make significant progress in addressing landslide problems triggered by severe storms, earthquakes, volcanic activity, coastal wave attack, and wildland fires in the United States. Public and private decision makers increasingly depend on information that the LHP provides before, during, and after a disaster so that they can live, work, and build safely.
Fulfilling the mission of the LHP - to provide information that leads to the reduction of losses from landslides and increase public safety through improved understanding of landslide hazards - requires developing the information, scientific understanding and capabilities needed to issue accurate warnings, advisories, or notifications of landslide hazards. Each of the program's 5-year goals combines a balanced mix of applications and research to achieve their mission:
- Conduct landslide hazard assessments
- Monitor and model active landslides
- Provide pre - and post-landslide hazard event assessments
- Provide landslide hazard information and studies of landslide hazard mitigation
The LHP works closely with states, other bureaus within the Department of the Interior, and other Federal and State agencies to reduce landslide losses. The LHP anticipates working closely with Oregon, California, Hawaii and other states during the next 5 years. LHP is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a new landslide hazard alert system. LHP also has a partnership with the American Planning Association on an effort to incorporate landslide hazards information into the land-use planning process. LHP is a member of the International Consortium of Landslides, a United Nations sponsored organization, which among other activities, is producing a universal handbook on understanding landslides and landslide mitigation.