The 3D Elevation Program: Landslide recognition, hazard assessment, and mitigation support

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The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landslide Hazards Program conducts landslide hazard assessments, pursues landslide investigations and forecasts, provides technical assistance to respond to landslide emergencies, and engages in outreach. All of these activities benefit from the availability of high-resolution, three-dimensional (3D) elevation information in the form of light detection and ranging (lidar) data and interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IfSAR) data. Research on landslide processes addresses critical questions of where and when landslides are likely to occur as well as their size, speed, and effects. This understanding informs the development of methods and tools for hazard assessment and situational awareness used to guide efforts to avoid or mitigate landslide impacts. Such research is essential for the USGS to provide improved information on landslide potential associated with severe storms, earthquakes, volcanic activity, coastal wave erosion, and wildfire burn areas.

Decision makers in government and the private sector increasingly depend on information the USGS provides before, during, and following disasters so that communities can live, work, travel, and build safely. The USGS 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) provides the programmatic infrastructure to generate and supply lidar-derived superior terrain data to address landslide applications and a wide range of other urgent needs nationwide. By providing data to users, 3DEP reduces users’ costs and risks and allows them to concentrate on their mission objectives. 3DEP includes (1) data acquisition partnerships that leverage funding, (2) contracts with experienced private mapping firms, (3) technical expertise, lidar data standards, and specifications, and (4) most important, public access to high-quality 3D elevation data.

Document Type: 

  • Fact Sheet


  • critical issues, database publication, landslide, hazards