Cees van Westen is Full professor Multi-Hazard Risk Dynamics at the Earth System Analysis Department of the faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Twente University, the Netherlands. After obtaining his MSc in Physical Geography from the University of Amsterdam in 1988, he joined the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) as PhD researcher and specialized in the use of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems for natural hazard and risk assessment. He obtained his Ph.D. in Engineering Geology from the Technical University of Delft in 1993, with research on "Geographic Information Systems for Landslide Hazard Zonation". He is working in the Department of Earth Systems Analysis, and contributes to the research theme 4D-Earth, specifically to Natural Hazards and Disaster Risk Management. He was involved in projects related to the development of open source GIS software and developed many training materials on the use of GIS for hazard and risk assessment. From 2005- 2015 he was Director of the United Nations University - ITC Centre on Geoinformation for Disaster Risk Management. The overview of activities of the UNU-DGIM can be downloaded here. He has carried out research on different hazard and risk related aspects: landslide hazard and risk (e.g. Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Romania, India, China, Vietnam, Colombia, Central America, Caribbean), volcanic hazard and risk assessment (Colombia, Philippines, Central America, South America) and technological risk assessment (India). He worked on national scale risk assessment projects in Central America, the Caribbean, Caucasus, and Central Asia. His current research interest is to develop methods for the analysis of changing multi-hazard risk. These changes can be abrupt, e.g. after major disasters (e.g. earthquakes, tropical storms, volcanic eruptions), or gradual (e.g. analyzing how future scenarios of climate change, land-use change and population change have an impact on risk) or as a decision support tool for the planning of risk reduction measures.
He is currently contributing to the research theme on Disaster Risk Management in ITC. He has carried out research on different hazard and risk related aspects: landslide hazard and risk (e.g. Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Romania, India, China, Vietnam, Colombia, Central America, Caribbean), volcanic hazard and risk assessment (Colombia, Philippines, Central America, South America) and technological risk assessment (India). He worked on national scale risk assessment projects in Central America, Caribbean, and the Caucasus. His current research interest is to develop methods for the analysis of changing multi-hazard risk. These changes can be abrupt, e.g. after major disasters (e.g. earthquakes, tropical storms, volcanic eruptions), or gradual (e.g. analyzing how future scenarios of climate change, land use change and population change have an impact on risk) or as decision support tool for the planning of risk reduction measures.
Externally funded research projects:
- RUNOUT project. Major risk from rapid, large-volume landslides in Europe: The design and testing of new techniques for hazard assessment and mitigation. EU FP5, Programme Environment and Climate 1994-1998. The primary goals for Project RUNOUT were to develop and test physical models for the catastrophic collapse and runout of giant landslides, and to use these to improve strategies for mitigating the hazard from such mass movements. Test sites in Gran Canaria, Liechtenstein and Italy.
- ESA-DUP SLAM Project: the development of an ESA EO Service to support the legal obligations of Swiss and Italian Geological Risk Services in landslide risk forecasting and prevention. Several projects funded by the European Space Agency within the framework of its Data User Program (DUP), have investigated the feasibility and the operational applicability of spaceborne imagery to respond to the needs of governmental institutions that have a mandate in landslide analysis and prevention.
- SLARIM project: Strengthening Local Authorities in Risk Management. This was an internally funded ITC project running from 2002 to 2005. The main objective was to develop a methodology for the use of spatial information systems for municipalities, which will allow local authorities to evaluate the risk of natural disasters in their municipality, in order to implement strategies for vulnerability reduction. It concentrated on medium-sized cities in developing countries, which do not yet utilize GIS in their urban planning (Naga in the Philippines for flood risk management, Lalitpur in Nepal and Dehradun in India for seismic risk management). This resulted in the Ph.D. of Veronica Botero and Graciela Peters.
- Mountain Risk Project. The Mountain Risk Project was an EU FP6 Marie Curie Initial Training Network running from 2007-2010. It focused on research and training in aspects of mountains hazards and risks assessment and management. It intended to develop an advanced understanding of how mountain hydro-geomorphological processes behave and to apply this understanding to living with the hazards in the long-term. This resulted in the Ph.D. thesis of Byron Quan Luna on the use of runout modeling for landslide hazard and risk assessment.
- SafeLand Project. SafeLand was a Large-scale integrating Collaborative research project funded by the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) of the European Commission. It developed generic quantitative risk assessment and management tools and strategies for landslides at local, regional, European and societal scales and establish the baseline for the risk associated with landslides in Europe, to improve our ability to forecast landslide hazard and detect hazard and risk zones.
- INCREO project. The INCREO project was an EU FP7 Copernicus project, running from 2013-2014. The objective of IncREO is to provide actors responsible for civil protection and disaster management with EO-based solutions contributing to an improved preparedness and mitigation planning for areas highly vulnerable to natural disasters and already noticeable climate change trends.
- CHANGES project. The CHANGES project was an EU FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network. The CHANGES network (Changing Hydro-meteorological Risks – as Analyzed by a New Generation of European Scientists) aimed to develop an advanced understanding of how global changes (related to environmental and climate change as well as socio-economical change) will affect the temporal and spatial patterns of hydro-meteorological hazards and associated risks in Europe; how these changes can be assessed, modelled, and incorporated in sustainable risk management strategies, focusing on spatial planning, emergency preparedness and risk communication. This resulted in the Ph.D. of Thea Turkington on the analysis of climate change for hydro-meteorological hazards in mountainous areas in the Alps.
Bilaterial research projects:
- Austria: Applied Geomorphological Mapping Hintere Bregenzerwald. As part of the MSc a mapping project of 12 geomorphological map sheets was carried out together with A.C. Seijmonsbergen. Each map at 1:10,000 scale had two overlay maps: geotechnical and natural hazards.
- Austria: Geotopen Inventar Vorarlberg. A collaboration of the University of Amsterdam with the Vorarlberger Naturschau (Inatura, Dornbirn) resulted in one of the first inventories of geomorphologically important geotopes in Austria.
- Switzerland: Landslide hazard assessment in Sant-Gallen. Collaboration between the University of Amsterdam and the Wildbachverbauung in Sankt Gallen: several projects were carried out on detailed applied geomorphological mapping in 1986-1988.
- Colombia: Landslide susceptibility and hazard assessment in Manizales. Collaboration between ITC and the Instituto Geografica Agustin Codazzi (IGAC) in Bogota, Colombia. Linked to Ph.D. of Cees van Westen and Mark Terlien, and to capacity building in IGAC.
- China: Coalfire impact on landslides and subsidence. Research project funded by Netherlands Government and EU on mitigating the impact of spontaneous coal fire combustion in Ninxia province.
- Philippines: Volcanic hazard assessment in Pinatubo and Mayon. Collaboration with PHIVOLCS on post-volcanic debris flows modeling at Mount Pinatubo, resulting in the Ph.D. of Arturo Daag. Volcanic hazard assessment of Mayon volcano with Arlene Dayao of DMG.
- Cuba: National-scale landslide risk assessment. This work was centered around the PhD research of Enrique Castellanos (now director IGP in Cuba). Methods were developed for landslide hazard and risk assessment at national, provincial, municipal and local scale.
- Nepal: Seismic hazard and risk assessment in Kathmandu valley. Collaboration with the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the Nepalese Society on Earthquake Technology (NSET), the Department of Mines and Geology, and Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan Office. Modeling of soft sediments in Kathmandu valley, liquefaction hazard assessment, building characterization, seismic risk assessment, improvement of building permit system.
- Peru: Volcanic hazard assessment in Arequipa. Collaboration with Prof. Thouret (University of Clermont Ferrand), Mike Sheridan, and Ruben Vargas Franco.
- India: Landslide hazard and risk assessment. Four-year collaboration project with the Geological Survey of India (GSI), the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA, DoS) and the Italian CNR-IRPI on the development of landslide inventory, susceptibility, hazard and risk assessment methods appropriate for India. Resulting in four PhD theses of Sekhar Lujose Kuriase, Tapas Ranjan Martha, Saibal Ghosh and Pankaj Jaiswal.
- China: Earthquake-induced landslide hazard assessment in Sichuan province. Close collaboration with the State Key Laboratory of Geohazard Prevention (SKLGP), of the Chengdu Technical University (CDUT), resulting in PhD thesis of Tolga Gorum and Xuanmei Fan, and ongoing work by Chengxiao Tang. Also resulting in the Wenchuan-Earthquake Geohazards Atlas and numerous publications.
- Malaysia: Use of LiDAR for landslide hazard and risk assessment. Collaboration with the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, and JMG on the application of LiDAR data to landslide inventory mapping, hazard and risk assessment. This resulted in the Ph.D. of Khammarul Razak.
- India: Technological hazard and risk assessment in Haldia. This research resulted from an EU project with the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Kolkata and the EU Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy. Two Ph.D. researchers: Anandita Sengupta and Debanjan Bandyopadhyay (December 2016)
- China, 2015-2018. Development of an Atlas of Wenchuan Earthquake Geohazards, together with the State Key Laboratory on Geohazard Prevention and Geoenvironmental Protection (SKLGP), Chengdu University of Technology.
- Nepal (2015-2019). Analyzing the co-seismic and post-seismic landslide activity in Rasuwa, with Thribuvan University
- Dominica (2016-2020). Analyzing the multi-hazard impact of tropical storms and hurricanes in a small island developing state. With University of Leeds and Portsmouth
- Kerala, India (2019-2020): Analyzing the relation between land-use changes and landslides triggered by the 2018 and 2019 monsoon events. With UNEP, University of Kerala, Kerala State Disaster Management Authority.
He has been teaching courses since 1994 on topics such as Introduction to GIS, Spatial Information for Disaster Risk Management, Natural Hazard Assessment, Empirical Modelling, Landslide susceptibility Assessment, Multi-Hazard risk Assessment, Disaster Risk Reduction.
From 1998 to 2000 he was Programme Director of the Earth Resources and Environmental Geosciences" educational programme, and he has been coordinating the specialization on Natural hazards for a number of years.
He has been active in the development of joint educational programmes with IIRS (India), UGM (Indonesia), ICIMOD (Nepal), ADPC (Thailand), CLAS-UMSS (Bolivia) and UNAM-CIGA (Mexico), and CDUT (China). He has given short courses in many different countries.
He has supervised over 85 MSc research thesis students.
Courses in ITC which he now coordinates:
Training packages, that deal with the application of GIS and Remote Sensing for natural hazards and risk assessment:
- ILWIS Training Guide coordinator. In 1997 he worked as training material coordinator on preparation of the training materials for the ILWIS (Integrated Land and Water Information System) version 2.1 , and made over 10 application case studies on the use of GIS for hazard assessment, dealing with floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
- GIS for Slope Instability Hazard Zonation (GISSIZ), dealing with the use of Remote Sensing for landslide inventory mapping and GIS for landslide susceptibility assessment.
- Hazard and risk assessment in Central America; This is the result of the UNESCO RAPCA project and contains GIS exercises for Guatemala, Homduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
- Multi-hazard risk assessment (RiskCity Training package, with theory and exercise book). The Theory book is also available in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Georgian.
- Landslide Hazard and Risk Assessment (Safeland). A training manaul containing a number of GIS case studies on landslide inventory, susceptibility, hazard and risk assessment with actual GIS data.
- National Scale Multi-Hazard Risk Assessment of Georgia. Resulting from MATRA and PPRD-EAST projects with National atlas, Web-GIS, theory book and exercise book);
- Analysis of Changing Multi-Hazard Risk for Decision Making. A GIS tutorial that guides you thrugh the process of multi-hazard risk assessment at local scale, including risk reduction scenarios and possible planning alternatives. This is also applied in the form of a Spatial Decision Support System.
Regular short courses were organized with the following organizations:
- ADPC, AIT and UNITAR-UNOSAT: GI4DRM. This course has been designed jointly by ADPC, Asian Institute of Technology, ITC-University of Twente, Netherlands, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research's Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNITAR-UNOSAT), with the aim of providing an overview of the use of spatial information in disaster risk management. It has been running succesfully since 2008, and is organized annually by ADPC in Thailand.
- Bolivia, CLAS/UMSS, 1995-2012. Joint courses on "Evaluación de amenazas y riesgos para desastres naturales" , for the CLAS project in Cochabamba.
- Mexico: CIGA/UNAM, 2006-2009. With the Centro de Investigaciones en Geografía Ambiental (CIGA) of the Universidad Nacional de Mexico (UNAM) an annual joint short course on "Geo-Información para la Evaluación y Manejo del Riesgo a Múltiples Amenazas" was organized
- LARAM and LARAM-Asia. ITC contributed to the annual LARAM PhD School in Italy (ORganized by the University of Salerno) and the LARAM Asia School (Later converted to IRALL School organized by SKLGP in Chengdu, China).
- South Korea, KIGAM. 2012-2014. Course “Landslide Monitoring and Assessment” for international and Korean students in the training center of IS-GEO at the Korean Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) in Daejeon (Korea)
Joint Master Courses were organized with the following institutions:
- The Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS), Dehradun, India: A joint course on Geo-Information for Disaster Management was organized at Postgraduate and MSc level for a number of years (2007-2015). The MSc students from this course came for a three-month period to ITC as part of their overall programme. The MSc research was carried out in India with support from supervisors from ITC and IIRS.
- The Geography Department of Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia: A joint MSc degree course on Geo-Information for spatial planning and risk management was organized for a number of years (2009-2016). The Indonesian MSc students also spent a three-month period at ITC, and their MSc research in Indonesia was supervised jointly by staff from ITC and UGM.