Post-disaster recovery monitoring with Google Earth Engine

S. Ghaffarian*, Ali Rezaie Farhadabad, N. Kerle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
127 Downloads (Pure)


Post-disaster recovery is a complex process in terms of measuring its progress after a disaster and understanding its components and influencing factors. During this process, disaster planners and governments need reliable information to make decisions towards building the affected region back to normal (pre-disaster), or even improved, conditions. Hence, it is essential to use methods to understand the dynamics/variables of the post-disaster recovery process, and rapid and cost-effective data and tools to monitor the process. Google Earth Engine (GEE) provides free access to vast amounts of remote sensing (RS) data and a powerful computing environment in a cloud platform, making it an attractive tool to analyze earth surface data. In this study we assessed the suitability of GEE to analyze and track recovery. To do so, we employed GEE to assess the recovery process over a three-year period after Typhoon Haiyan, which struck Leyte island, in the Philippines, in 2013. We developed an approach to (i) generate cloud and shadow-free image composites from Landsat 7 and 8 satellite imagery and produce land cover classification data using the Random Forest method, and (ii) generate damage and recovery maps based on post-classification change analysis. The method produced land cover maps with accuracies >88%. We used the model to produce damage and three time-step recovery maps for 62 municipalities on Leyte island. The results showed that most of the municipalities had recovered after three years in terms of returning to the pre-disaster situation based on the selected land cover change analysis. However, more analysis (e.g., functional assessment) based on detailed data (e.g., land use maps) is needed to evaluate the more complex and subtle socio-economic aspects of the recovery. The study showed that GEE has good potential for monitoring the recovery process for extensive regions. However, the most important limitation is the lack of very-high-resolution RS data that are critical to assess the process in detail, in particular in complex urban environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4574
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalApplied Sciences
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Disaster
  • Damage
  • Recovery
  • Monitoring
  • Assessment
  • Remote sensing
  • Satellite imagery
  • Landsat
  • Google Earth Engine
  • Typhoon Haiyan
  • cloud computing

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