Himalaya Study Eyes How Urban Shifts Affect Land Uses and Natural Disasters

nasa yale grant

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region is home to an 800-mile mountain range that spans eight countries with more than 210 million people. It is also situated at the nexus of two critical trends facing mountainous regions worldwide: an increase in natural disasters and a surge in urban populations.

Yet there is little accurate information about the region’s changing urban populations, how their movements have changed the landscape, and how vulnerable these communities are to threats such as earthquake, landslides, fires, and floods.

A new Yale-led study, which will be funded by NASA, aims to provide clarity on these questions. Using a trove of remote sensing data — including declassified satellite images from the mid-20th century — the researchers will assess the change in urban settlements in recent decades, how those shifts have affected land use, the frequency and magnitude of natural disasters in the region, and just how sensitive the region’s socio-economic systems are to these stressors.