Latin America and Caribbean

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Increasing in frequency and severity, wildfires have had a devastating impact in several areas around the world in recent years. The effects of wildfires pose a particular risk to the environment and communities in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. In order to mitigate the effects of wildfires and support wildfire risk management in the region, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission (EC) recently launched country profiles under the Global Wildfire Information System (GWIS).

A wildfire refers to “an unplanned, unwanted wild land fire”. Wildfires are both caused by man-made activity (slash/burn land clearing) and natural events (lightning or extreme drought). The likelihood of a wildfire increases dramatically in the dry season and during…

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Publishing date 30/03/2021

Recent advances in the implementation of open data policies such as those that facilitate access to satellite data and products of the Copernicus programme and the incorporation of cloud-based processing platforms such as Google Earth Engine are facilitating the use of Earth Observation to address challenges posed by natural hazards. In addition, complementary efforts by international networks and space agencies are facilitating access to products such as digital elevation models, archived and up-to-date data on indicators developed by the space community that are paving the way for improved disaster risk management efforts. 

Between 2 February and 12 March 2021, the Latin American Network on Remote Sensing of Forest Fires (RedLaTIF)the Mario Gulich Institute on High Level Studies on Outer SpaceArgentina’s National Agricultural Technology…

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Publishing date 15/03/2021

Under the annual theme "Towards A Safer Urban Future", the 2nd Resilient Infrastructure Forum took place in Colombia from 4 to 6 June 2019. The Forum aimed to develop a coordinated long-term strategy to overcome challenges posed by disasters, such as severe storms, tsunamis or earthquakes in Latin America and the Caribbean. At the event, UN-SPIDER underlined the benefits of space-based information for understanding the exposure of coastal urban infrastructure to natural hazards and highlighted how land-use changes, which can be observed through a combination of space data and aerial photography, lead to more frequent and more intense floods in cities in the region.

By enhancing the capacity of the region's institutions and private sector to plan, design and implement investments in disaster resilient infrastructure, RIF2019 provides a platform for specialists to support various stakeholders, such as governments or regional agencies to develop resilient…

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Publishing date 06/06/2019
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As part of the technical advisory support it provides to countries worldwide in making use of space-based information for disaster management, UN-SPIDER carries out an Institutional Strengthening Mission to Ecuador from 8 to 12 April 2019 upon the request of the Government of Ecuador. This activity is jointly organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) and the National Risk and Emergency Management Service of Ecuador. The Military Geographic Institute of Ecuador, the Agustín Codazzi Geographic Institute of Colombia (IGAC) and the Federal University of Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and the Ecuadorian Space Institute support the mission.

During the five-day mission, UN-SPIDER runs a training programme on the "Analysis of satellite…

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Publishing date 08/04/2019
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To predict when a volcano will erupt, researchers rely on indirect signals. However, without long-term and ground-based observations, it is difficult to determine whether these signals are normal disturbances or indicators of a looming eruption. New research suggests satellite data could help to fill that gap and improve scientists understanding of the complex warning signs a volcano may issue before it erupts.

The multidecadal study analyzed 17 years of remote sensing observations of 47 volcanoes in Latin America, where more than 60 per cent of active volcanoes are unmonitored. The researchers looked at three types of data: sulfur dioxide gas emissions, which often increase before a volcano erupts; thermal measurements and radar data that show how a volcano is changing shape.

On the basis of their analysis of the satellite data, the team found that the majority of the 47 volcanoes were on a spectrum between open systems, able to release…

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Publishing date 04/04/2019
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As part of it advisory support activities, UN-SPIDER is carrying out out a Technical Advisory Mission (TAM) to Peru from 1 to 5 April to evaluate the current and potential use of space-based information in all aspects of disaster management. Based on exchanges with a wide range of stakeholders, UN-SPIDER will provide recommendations as to how to strengthen the use of space-based information in disaster risk management and emergency response in the country.

The team of experts led by UN-SPIDER is conducting multiple activities and institutional visits in Lima. The team is comprised of eight experts from UN-SPIDER; the German Aerospace Centre (DLR); the Argentinian National Space Activities Commission (CONAE); the Mexican Space Agency (AEM); the Agustin Codazzi Geographic Institute of Colombia (IGAC); the Santa Maria…

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Publishing date 01/04/2019

Satellites from NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are monitoring the eruption of Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) in Guatemala that has killed at least 69 people since it started erupting on 3 June 2018.

The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) onboard the joint NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite captured an imagery) of the eruption and resulting ash plume emitted by the volcano.

Such satellite images can be utilised by civil authorities, scientists and the local population to understand where pyroclastic flows, a high-density mix of hot lava blocks, pumice, ash and volcanic gas, are moving in order to avoid disaster.

Just before noon on 3 June, the Volcan de Fuego, which is located approximately 50 kilometres southwest of Guatemala City, produced an explosive eruption that sent ash billowing thousands of metres into the air. A deadly…

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Publishing date 06/06/2018

The International Charter “Space and Major Disasters” has been activated for Guatemala’s Fuego volcano on 5 June.

Guatemala’s most powerful eruption in 100 years has killed at least 69 people with many more missing, according to local reports.

A state of emergency has been declared with the eruption, which started on Sunday, cascaded vast clouds of volcanic ash, rocks and toxic gas into the atmosphere. 3,000 local residents have been evacuated into temporary shelters as pyroclastic flows threaten to engulf villages surrounding the volcano.

Fuego is situated 40km south-west of the capital Guatemala City and the eruption closed the city’s La Aurora International Airport as the clouds of volcanic ash and gases rose 10 km into the air.

Emergency responders are working alongside soldiers and firefighters to search for missing people in the dense covering of ash, mud and volcanic rock…

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Publishing date 05/06/2018

The European Commission has signed Cooperation Arrangement with Colombia, Chile and Brazil. Under the arrangements, the three countries will gain access to the wide range of applications of the Copernicus Earth observation programme and data provided by the European Sentinel satellites using connections between data centres.

With the arrangements, the European Commission aims to grant access to the three Latin American countries to data provided by Sentinel satellites. All three cooperation arrangements include reciprocity clauses that benefit the parties. As for Brazil, this reciprocity clause will allow the Copernicus programme full, free and open access to Brazilian Earth observation data. Also, the partner countries will facilitate access to in-situ data from their regional observation networks, including geophysical and meteorological networks. Such information will support Copernicus data architecture and the development of global products.

It is expected that…

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Publishing date 14/03/2018

The Executive Secretariat of Guatemala’s National Coordinating Agency for Disaster Risk Reduction (SE-CONRED), the National Secretariat of Science and Technology (SENACYT), the National Authority for the Sustainable Management of Amatitlan Lake (AMSA) and the Institute of Environmental Studies of the Faculty of Agriculture of the San Carlos University of Guatemala (IAA-USAC) are joining forces to conduct a training course on the use of radar imagery to map the extent of floods. The training course is being conducted in the GIS Laboratory of IAA-USAC from 16 to 19 October 2017 by instructors from the Federal University of Santa Maria in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (UFSM), and from the Agustin Codazzi Geographic Institute of Colombia (IGAC).

The training course focuses on the use of the UN-SPIDER Recommended Practice that has been developed by the Ukrainian Space Agency in its role as one of the UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office. The step-by- step procedure makes use of ESA…

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Publishing date 19/10/2017

The Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS) - Mapping and the International Charter Space and Major Disasters have been activated for Hurricane Maria, a category 5 storm, as it made landfall on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Category 5 is the highest grade on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. With sustained wind of 252 km/h or higher, category 5 hurricanes are expected to cause extensive damage. Hurricane Maria is the second maximum strength storm in the Atlantic this this month and has caused significant damage in Dominicana and other Caribbean islands. Many of the affected areas are still recovering from Hurricane Irma, which ripped across the region earlier this month.

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Publishing date 19/09/2017

A regional expert meeting to continue promoting the use of space-based technologies in disaster risk reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean kicked off today in Mexico City. The event under the title "Enhancing the use of Space-based information in Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems" is run by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its UN-SPIDER progamme, and the Mexican Space Agency (AEM), with the support of Mexico’s National Centre for Disaster Prevention (CENAPRED) and the Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (CRECTEALC). Experts from Latin America and the Caribbean will address ways in which space-based technologies can be used to improve multi-hazard early warning systems in this region at the premises of CENAPRED until 13 July. The meeting was opened by Dr. Francisco Mendieta, General Director of the Mexican Space Agency, Dr. Javier Rivera, Adjoint Director General of the National…

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Publishing date 11/07/2017

The International Charter Space and Major Disasters have been activated in Costa Rica on 28 November 2016 due to the consequences of Hurricane Otto. The activation was requested by USGS on behalf of National Emergency Committee Costa Rica. UN-SPIDER contributed with Costa Rica to activate the charter and is permanently giving technical support to that country.

Heavy rain, floods, landslides, destruction, some 6000 displaced people and nine victims left the tropical storm. Otto also affected Panama and Nicaragua leaving damage and victims. 

The FloodList portal informed that northern provinces in Costa Rica received intense rains on 24 November 2016. The national Weather Institute of the country (IMN) reported rains up to 120 mm in three hours in Guanacaste and Alajuela stations. The Costa Rica National Civil Defense reported that 255 communities were affected and 43 were inaccessible. For more information please click…

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Publishing date 30/11/2016

The International Charter Space and Major Disasters have been activated on 21 November 2016 due to several days of heavy rain in Panama. The activation was requested by the United States Geological Survey.

The National Civil Protection System of the country (SINAPROC) issued alerts for the provinces of Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro and Veraguas and SINAPROC teams have evacuated several communities living along the Chiriqui Viejo river. According to the FloodList portal, t

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Publishing date 24/11/2016

On 21 Monday 2016 the Otto tropical storm formed in the Caribbean and could reach the hurricane category. The U.S. National Hurricane Center estimated the storm to reach Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Thursday. The storm might strength within the next 48 hours therefore becoming a hurricane in the following days. Reuters reported that the almost-stationary storm, with sustained winds of 80 kilometers per hour, was some 282 km east-southeast of the San Andres Island. For more information on this storm click here

On Wednesday 23 November 2016 the Costa Rica Government declared the national state of emergency due to the arrival of Otto, that reached the hurricane level. The red alert was extended to 18 cantons of the country. ONU-SPIDER, in contact…

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Publishing date 24/11/2016

8.2 million people have been affected by natural disasters from January to August 2016 in Latin America and the Caribbean according to the “Humanitarian Bulletin” for the region, a publication of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recently.

Bolivia’s increased drought problems are affecting more than 740,000 inhabitants in different regions including the east and south parts of the country. In Central America, a region also affected by drought, people hope that food security will improve with the first 2017 harvests. Although strong, La Nina predictions have decreased and with them the expectations of climate-related disasters and floods. Until the end of August 2016 there were ten Hurricanes in the Atlantic and North Pacific regions combined, however the storm expectations increased towards the end of the season.  

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Publishing date 10/11/2016

During the past decades Latin America countries like Argentina and Brazil have been active in launching satellites for Earth observation .  In recent years, a satellite receiving station was established in Chetumal, Mexico. 

In recent years countries  in this region have been engaged in the development of observation tools. Venezuela and Chile have launched Earth observation satellites and Venezuela is also working on a next satellite generation with the contribution of China. This year Peru launched its first observation satellite PeruSat-1 under the direction of Gustavo Henriquez. The data obtained from this satellite will be used for military and civil uses including disaster management, environmental protection and surveillance in case of illegal mining. More information on PeruSAT-1 Mission here.

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Publishing date 29/10/2016

On 20 October 2016 the International Charter Space and Major Disaster was activated due to floods in Panama. The request of activation was due to heavy rain in the Darien and Tonosi province. The situation can worsen because more rain is expected on the following days. The activation of the charter was requested by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on behalf of the Tropic Humid Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean or CATHALAC for its acronym in Spanish. Approximately 3.500 people have been affected and there are no victims, reported the local daily La Prensa. More information on the topic here

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Publishing date 21/10/2016

Our Latin American and Caribbean Regional Support Office, CATHALAC, participated in the 7th Annual Global Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation from 6 to 8 July 2016 in Bonn. The main purpose was to share experiences and solutions on how a city can be resilient or in other words be prepared to face and recovery from a shock maintaining its essential functions, organization and personality. 

The Center proposed different suggestions that are included in the “Catalogue of climate change Adaptation Options”. 

More information on the Forum can be found here

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Publishing date 21/10/2016
On 3 October 2016 the Copernicus Emergency Management Service was activated at the request of the European Commission' services for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. 

The storm, which has already affected other Caribbean countries like the Dominican Republic and Cuba, triggered floods, landslides and fatalities. According to Euronews the storm, now on its way to the Bahamas and the USA, is weakening and has been reduced from a category four to a three hurricane. More information is available here

On 6 October 2016 the Copernicus Emergency Management Service was also activated for the United States at request of the European Union Service/…
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Publishing date 06/10/2016
On 3 October 2016 the International Charter Space and Major Disasters was activated due to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. The request for activation was due to heavy rain and winds reaching up to 145 mph. Haiti, a country susceptible to floods, has already experienced the consequences of the storm with three deaths, missing fisherman and several thousands of people evacuated. 
 
The activation of the Charter was requested by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on behalf of the Pacific Disaster Center, the latest being nominated as Project Manager for this Charter activation.   
 

On 5 October 2016 the International Charter Space and Major Disasters was activated in the Dominican Republic. Floods, evacuated people, and four deaths are among the reasons for the activation. 

The activation of the Charter was requested by the National Emergency…

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Publishing date 05/10/2016
Matthew, currently a category 4 hurricane, has already impacted Haiti, a country still recovering from a devastating earthquake on 2010; as well as the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. According to the BBC, authorities in these countries warned people to be prepared for this very powerful hurricane. Other countries that will feel the impact of the Hurricane include: Cuba and the United States. More information on this topic is available here
 
 
CNN reported that there are already three victims and missing people. Matthew is now moving towards Cuba and might affect the provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma and Las Tunas. The Cuban government has taken measures to be prepared as it expects the hurricane to landfall in the following hours. More details from CNN regarding Matthew are available…
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Publishing date 05/10/2016
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) caught images of smoke in Latin America. 
 
Fires were reported on 25 August 2016 in Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Those fires probably resulted from the land-clearing practices for crops or pastures. Bolivia declared a state of emergency as fires were raging more intensely in its borders. 
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Publishing date 01/09/2016

On the beginning of July 2016, airborne dust reached the coast of Chile. This phenomenon hardly ever occurs in the west coast of South America, according to atmospheric researchers.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) captured some natural-color images of the event on the 8 of July.

The dust source seems to be located between the Andes mountain range in South America and the Pacific coast, especially from an elevated slope allowing the dust to be transported that far.

The storm which brought the dust over Chile was accompanied by wind, rain and snow, reducing the visibility in nearby cities and leading to the…

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Publishing date 27/07/2016

Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of UNOOSA, carried out an official visit to El Salvador, which was arranged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of El Salvador to the United Nations Office at Vienna as a follow-up to the recent incorporation of El Salvador as a member of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.  He mission to El Salvador served to provide visibility to the on-going efforts conducted by UNOOSA and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to define the 2030 Space Agenda through the UNISPACE+50 process.

Two key activities in her visit included presentations to high ranking officers in government ministries and technical staff on the role and activities conducted by UNOOSA and the on-going UNISPACE+50 process.  In addition, the opportunity was used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador and UNOOSA to sign an memorandum of agreement as a…

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Publishing date 19/07/2016