UNM professor creates technology to help predict landslides

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Predicting a natural disaster before it happens is the goal of a University of New Mexico professor. He wants to stop landslides that follow wildfires.

“Prevent things like The Dixon Apple Orchard, Cochiti Pueblo, and the Bandelier National Monument type stuff,” said Associate Professor at UNM Christopher Lippitt.

Lippitt is working on a project that could help put a stop to fast floods after a big wildfire.

“We can fly over an area and we can reconstruct in very high detail what the three dimensional surface actually looks like,” said Lippitt.

With special technology on planes, Lippitt said he and his team produce images which can then tell emergency crews if a landslide is likely after a fire.

Lippitt said all they have to do is fly over the area right after a major fire and then fly over again later to see how the land has changed.

“If we can go back and do that again then we can actually tell where soil is being lost,” said Lippitt.

From there, he said crews can go in and work the land that could produce potential landslides.

“So this is really all about understanding what the potential for erosion is and doing something about it before it happens,” said Lippitt.

Lippitt said the technology is being developed and tested in the state. The goal is to make it available all over.

“This is a very practical approach of very new technology that can actually save a lot of property and potentially lives,” said Lippitt.

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