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Remote Sensing Derived Built-Up Area and Population Density to Quantify Global Exposure to Five Natural Hazards over Time

European Commission-Joint Research Centre, Disaster Risk Management Unit, TP. 267, Via E. Fermi 2749, 20127 Ispra, Italy
Piksel s.r.l, Via Breda 176, 20126 Milano, Italy
European Commission-Joint Research Centre, Territorial Development Unit, TP. 263, Via E. Fermi 2749, 20127 Ispra, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2018, 10(9), 1378;
Received: 20 June 2018 / Revised: 21 August 2018 / Accepted: 24 August 2018 / Published: 30 August 2018
PDF [4022 KB, uploaded 4 September 2018]


Exposure is reported to be the biggest determinant of disaster risk, it is continuously growing and by monitoring and understanding its variations over time it is possible to address disaster risk reduction, also at the global level. This work uses Earth observation image archives to derive information on human settlements that are used to quantify exposure to five natural hazards. This paper first summarizes the procedure used within the global human settlement layer (GHSL) project to extract global built-up area from 40 year deep Landsat image archive and the procedure to derive global population density by disaggregating population census data over built-up area. Then it combines the global built-up area and the global population density data with five global hazard maps to produce global layers of built-up area and population exposure to each single hazard for the epochs 1975, 1990, 2000, and 2015 to assess changes in exposure to each hazard over 40 years. Results show that more than 35% of the global population in 2015 was potentially exposed to earthquakes (with a return period of 475 years); one billion people are potentially exposed to floods (with a return period of 100 years). In light of the expansion of settlements over time and the changing nature of meteorological and climatological hazards, a repeated acquisition of human settlement information through remote sensing and other data sources is required to update exposure and risk maps, and to better understand disaster risk and define appropriate disaster risk reduction strategies as well as risk management practices. Regular updates and refined spatial information on human settlements are foreseen in the near future with the Copernicus Sentinel Earth observation constellation that will measure the evolving nature of exposure to hazards. These improvements will contribute to more detailed and data-driven understanding of disaster risk as advocated by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. View Full-Text
Keywords: remote sensing; natural hazards; exposure; disaster; earthquakes; floods remote sensing; natural hazards; exposure; disaster; earthquakes; floods

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Ehrlich, D.; Melchiorri, M.; Florczyk, A.J.; Pesaresi, M.; Kemper, T.; Corbane, C.; Freire, S.; Schiavina, M.; Siragusa, A. Remote Sensing Derived Built-Up Area and Population Density to Quantify Global Exposure to Five Natural Hazards over Time. Remote Sens. 2018, 10, 1378.

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