Monitoring of the impact of natural hazards on infrastructure using Earth Observation techniques and space technologies through the Eratosthenes Centre of Excellence and Excelsior H2020 Teaming project

By Marios Tzouvaras, Postdoctoral Researcher from the ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence

Infrastructure is designed to be operational under normal circumstances and to cope with rainfall, snow and excessive heat. However, extreme natural hazards can lead to severe problems not only at the areas where such events occur, but also at neighbouring regions or even the entire country.

The identification of areas susceptible to land movements and the systematic monitoring of land displacement at areas of interest in Cyprus, such as areas with critical infrastructure, areas of Cultural Heritage and other urban areas, can be carried out through Earth Observation techniques and space technologies. Nowadays, Copernicus satellite data such as those from the Sentinel missions as well as image processing software are freely available.

Coherent Change Detection (CCD) and Differential Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (DInSAR) methods, exploiting a series of Sentinel-1 SAR images, can be used for monitoring land displacement caused by earthquakes and landslides, affecting different areas in Cyprus. SAR technology allows for monitoring during day and night, irrespective of the residing weather conditions. These methods were applied successfully in three case study areas that were selected based on the site geology and the risk that land movements can cause to the general public and to critical infrastructure. One of them was at the embankment of the A6 Limassol-Paphos motorway in the direction from Paphos to Limassol between exits of Avdimou and Pissouri, that partially collapsed on 15 February 2019 after heavy rainfall, resulting in the closure of the motorway, causing delays to thousands of commuters every day for over a month.

The integration of these techniques for the systematic identification of areas susceptible to natural hazards, such as earthquakes and landslides, and the continuous monitoring of such land displacement phenomena based on the analysis of optical and SAR satellite data, can lead to a systematic way of monitoring land movements on a larger scale. Rapid detection and more detailed products can be developed using the proposed Earth Observation methodologies, for the detection and monitoring of natural hazards and their impact on critical infrastructure resilience.

The proposed methodology might lay the foundations for the development of an automated Early Warning System that will facilitate the operation of the country’s emergency mechanism and warn public authorities and the general public in a timely manner for an upcoming danger. Moreover, it can also serve as a guidance/consultation tool for public authorities and decision-makers regarding the identification of high-risk areas in terms of land displacement on time and the adoption of preventive protection measures on Cultural Heritage landscapes and critical infrastructure.

The present study was carried out under the PhD course of studies of the Department of Civil Engineering and Geomatics at the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT), within the activities of the ERATOSTHENES Centre of Excellence (ECoE) (, and under the auspices of the ‘EXCELSIOR’ – ERATOSTHENES: Excellence Research Centre for Earth Surveillance and Space-Based Monitoring of the Environment Horizon 2020 Widespread Teaming project ( ‘EXCELSIOR’ has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No 857510) and from the Government of the Republic of Cyprus through the Directorate General for the European Programmes, Coordination and Development.

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