Project title

Ground Deformations Risk Scenarios: an Advanced Assessment Service


Towards a better understanding of landslides and subsidence

Whilst taking on the detection, mapping, monitoring and forecasting of ground deformations in Europe, DORIS integrates Earth Observation technologies with ground based information in order to improve our understanding of phenomena that result in ground deformations.

DORIS is set to explore the application of remote sensing for a better understanding of landslides and subsidence, and of the damage these processes can cause to the European public.


Ground deformations, including landslides and land subsidence, are the result of a variety of natural and human induced causes and triggers. These phenomena are frequent and widespread in Europe, and cause extensive economic damage to private properties and public assets. The social impact of these highly hazardous phenomena is relevant. In Italy, a country for which detailed information exists on the damage caused to the population by ground deformations, landslides are the primary cause of death caused by natural hazards. Detailed and comprehensive figures on the number, extent and frequency of ground deformations are not available for all the other European countries, but the information available for selected areas concurs in indicating that the Italian figures are not extreme values. Indeed, the international community of scientists and practitioners dealing with slope failures considers the extent of the landslide problem in Europe largely underestimated.

In Europe, the large number of areas affected by ground deformations, the frequency and extent of the triggering events, the extent of the impact and the magnitude of the damage, make it mandatory a multi- scale, systemic approach. Further, the complexity and extent of the problem is such that it cannot be tackled at an individual, site specific scale, or using a single technique or methodology. The problem can be approached only through the integration of data and information taken at different scales, and with the collaborative efforts of multiple expertises. With this respect, the multiple satellite sensors now available, including passive (optical) sensors and active (synthetic aperture radar, SAR) sensors, provide valuable technological alternatives to traditional methods and tools to detect, map, monitor and forecast ground deformations over large areas and with the required accuracy.

DORIS operates in different study areas in Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland. The ensemble of the study areas represents a wide range of physiographical and environmental settings, and include most of the types of ground deformations for which the service is designed. Successful application of the service in the selected study areas will guarantee that the downstream service will work in Europe. DORIS benefits by a unique team of public administrations, leading research institutes, and enterprises with consolidated experience in the application of EO technology for environmental and Civil Protection applications. A specific action of DORIS is dedicated to the design of an appropriate business model for the long term self-sustainability of the service, in order to deliver a service that is useful, economically viable, reproducible, and beneficial to a wide range of stakeholders in Europe.


In this respect, DORIS:

  • Exploits the unique ESA ERS-1/2 and ENVISAT C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) archives, and evaluates
    new SAR sensors, including COSMO-SkyMed and TerraSAR-X, to provide long time-series of ground deformations.
  • Moves forwards the combined application of satellite and ground-based DInSAR, coupled with GPS measurements and geophysical probing, for the long-term monitoring of ground deformations.
  • Uses high and very-high resolution optical images to identify and classify elements at risk, for the assessment of damage caused by ground deformations, and in the design of risk scenarios.
  • Explores the use of thermal images for landslide susceptibility and hazard zonation.

DORIS is designed to deliver products to national and local civil defence authorities. Tested in six study areas in Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland, its successful application in these areas is set to guarantee that the service will work in Europe.

DORIS is a research and technological initiative of a consortium of leading research institutes, large and small enterprises, and public administrations with consolidated experience in the exploitation of EO technology for civil defence applications.

Recent advances in EO data and technology, coupled with an improved understanding of the natural triggers and the human causes of the ground deformations, are making possible to predict the triggers, to detect, map and monitor the individual deformations over large areas and for significant periods, and to forecast the extent and magnitude of the ground deformations. This is a significant achievement for Civil Protection authorities in Europe, that can exploit EO information to:

  • detect areas affected by ground deformations, and identify areas prone to ground deformations
  • monitor the geographical and temporal evolution of natural and human induced events that cause ground deformations,
  • forecast potentially damaging events that may result in hazardous deformations before they occur,
  • assess the direct and the indirect impact, and the consequences of hazardous ground deformation events on the population, the build-up environment, and public and private assets, and
  • help determine the vulnerability of different types of elements at risk, including the population, to hazardous ground deformation events.

In this context, DORIS intends to facilitates the use of EO information and products to improve the ability of CD authorities to manage natural and human induced hazards that produce ground deformations.

  • National Research Council, Italy
  • University of Florence, Italy
  • Italian Space Agency, Italy
  • Dipartimento della Protezione Civile, Italy
  • Tele-Rilevamento Europa, Italy
  • ALTAMIRA Information, Spain
  • Gamma Remote Sensing, Switzerland
  • Institute of Geology and Mineralogy of Spain, Spain
  • Booz & Company, Germany
  • Eotvos Lorand Geophysical Institute of Hungary, Hungary
  • Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland
  • Polish Geological Institute, National Research Institute, Poland
  • Technologies for Earth Observation and Natural Hazards, Italy

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