Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Robert Alexander Emberson


Robert Alexander Emberson's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.614.5815
Org Code: 617
Mail Code 617
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

I serve as Associate Program Manager of the NASA Earth Applied Sciences Program Disasters program area. In this role, I help administrate a range of projects funded by the program, as well as supporting the disaster response activities by providing satellite data and insight to a range of stakeholders before, during and after disasters strike. I am excited to leverage NASA’s unique assets and knowledge to improve the resilience of communities around the world to hazards and disasters.

Alongside this programmatic role, I am involved in several research projects. I lead research that seeks to understand how satellite observations can be used to inform estimates of agricultural soil erosion, as well as how medium term weather forecasts can be used to predict extreme rainfall events. I am also part of the NASA Landslides research team, where my current research focus is to better understand and model the exposure and risk faced by human settlement due to landsliding. This is a globally pervasive hazard, but the risk associated with landslides remains poorly constrained at a global extent. The primary aim of my work is thus to better model the economic and social impacts of landsliding globally, and in near-real time, using satellite data.

Research Interests

Dynamic Soil Erosion Modelling

Earth Science: Hydrology / Water Cycle

Since 2021 I have been investigating the use of satellite data to estimate erosional soil loss from agricultural land around the world. Soil erosion poses a significant threat to sustainable food production over the next century, and my work will explore whether global estimates of soil degradation can benefit from regularly-updated satellite-based estimates, including using precipitation derived from IMERG rainfall products. This work is supported by a NASA New Investigator Program grant.

Seasonal-to-subseasonal Extreme rainfall forecasting

Earth Science: Precipitation

I lead a team or researchers investigating the use of the Goddard Modeling and Assimilation Office Seasonal-to-Subseasonal (S2S) forecast data as a tool to predict extreme rainfall with long lead times. The intent of this foundational research is to explore whether proxies or signals in S2S forecasts can serve as predictors for intense rainfall events that might drive landsliding and flooding months ahead of time, providing disaster mitigation practitioners with additional tools to inform medium-term planning decisions in high precipitation areas.

Landslide Exposure and Risk analysis

Solar System: Geomorphology

Landslides pose persistent threats to people and infrastructure in mountainous regions. The GSFC landslides research team has developed a range of satellite-based methods to assess the hazard associated with landslides around the world, and my research focuses on how to extend those results to estimate the potential exposure of humans and buildings to this hazard. This cross-disciplinary research includes geomorphic analysis of landslide-prone regions as well as socio-economic datasets relating to the critically exposed assets. As part of this work, in 2019-20 I worked with researchers at Columbia IRI to help provide landslide hazard analysis for the Rohingya refugee camps in Southern Bangladesh. 


Associate Program Manager, Applied Sciences Disasters Program Area


April 2022 - Present

  • Tracking grant reports & finance for a range of research projects
  • Coordinating Disaster response activities for NASA Subject Matter Experts
  • Developing strategic direction for programmatic research activities.

Associate Research Scientist

University of Maryland, Baltimore County - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

December 2021 - Present

  • PI, NASA New Investigator Program Grant: Improving Soil Erosion Monitoring using Earth Observations for Food Security
  • Contributing scientist for NASA HiMAT grant: Understanding Changes to Landslide Activity and Extreme Precipitation Over High Mountain Asia
  • Co-I NASA A.37 Disasters grant; developing and implementing near-real time global landslide exposure and risk assessment products

Associate Scientist

USRA / NASA GSFC - Greenbelt

September 2020 - November 2021

  • Contributing Scientist for NASA – Rio de Janeiro Government project to develop localized landslide exposure models
  • Co-I NASA SERVIR grant; landslide exposure estimates in the Lower Mekong area
  • Contributing Scientist for two (2) World Bank consortium projects to support landslide hazard and exposure estimates for Morocco, and landslide susceptibility analysis for the Arun Valley, Nepal.
  • Co-I NASA A.37 Disasters grant; developing and implementing near-real time global landslide exposure and risk assessment products

NASA Postdoctoral Fellow

USRA / NASA Postdoctoral Program - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

August 2018 - September 2020

  • Developing global landslide risk assessment tools for disaster response & preparedness.
  • Led project alongside UN agencies to provide products to model real-time landslide risk in Rohingya refugee camps; communication of products to State Dept. & US Gov agency teams.
  • Supported landslide mapping and hazard assessment for recent rainfall disasters.

Disaster Coordinator

NASA GSFC - Greenbelt, MD

July 2018 - Present

  • Leading disaster response activities to support multinational stakeholders with data provision and decision support during disaster events. Led event responses for multiple hurricane and rainfall driven disasters & served as agency point-of-contact.
  • Lead for NASA Disasters – World Food Program partnership to provide WFP with critical information during disaster

Visiting Scientist

USRA / GESTAR - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

June 2018 - August 2018

Locum Associate Editor, Nature Geoscience

Springer Nature - London

January 2017 - May 2017

Junior Researcher

GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences - Potsdam, Germany

September 2012 - June 2016


Doctoral Studies 2012-2016: University of Potsdam, Germany / GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences. 
Ph.D in Geochemistry / Geomorphology; final grade: Summa cum Laude
Thesis title: Chemical Weathering Driven By Bedrock Landslides
Submission date: September 2016, Defended: December 5th 2016
Advisors: Prof. Niels Hovius (GFZ / University of Potsdam), Prof. Albert Galy (CRPG-CNRS, France)

MSci (Hons) 2011-2012: Geological Sciences, University of Cambridge, St John's College

BA (Hons) 2008-2011: Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge, St John's College. 


Professional Service

American Geophysical Union, Natural Hazards Section webmaster (2019-present) & member of Early Career advisory group (2020-present)

Member of NASA GSFC Earth Sciences Early/Mid Career Working Group, to advocate for junior colleagues. (2019-2021)


2023: NASA Agency Honor Award - Early Career Achievement Medal

2023: NASA Software of the Year - Landslide Hazard Assessment for Situational Awareness (LHASA) Team

2022: NASA Robert H. Goddard Honor Award for Science

2022: NASA GSFC Hydrosphere, Biosphere, and Geophysics (HBG) Annual Peer Awards: Best Publication - First Author Non-Civil Servant

2018: NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship

2017: Michelson Preis: Awarded for best thesis, Science/Mathematics, University of Potsdam


Improving Soil Erosion Monitoring Using Earth Observations for Food Security

NASA New Investigator Program - NASA - Awarded: 2021-03-19

Dates: 2021-12-01  - 2024-12-01

Spatiotemporal Analysis of Extreme Event Characteristics Using S2S Forecasts to Inform Hydrometeorological Hazard Assessment

A.50 Subseasonal-to-Seasonal Hydrometeorological Prediction - NASA - Awarded: 2022-08-12

Dates: 2022-11-01  - 2025-10-31



2024. "Earth Observation to Address Inequities in Post‐Flood Recovery." Earth's Future 12 (2): [10.1029/2023ef003606] [Journal Article/Letter]

2024. "Multitemporal landslide inventory and susceptibility map for the Arun River Basin, Nepal." Geoscience Data Journal [10.1002/gdj3.240] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Dynamic rainfall erosivity estimates derived from IMERG data." Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 27 (19): 3547-3563 [10.5194/hess-27-3547-2023] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Learnings from rapid response efforts to remotely detect landslides triggered by the August 2021 Nippes earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace in Haiti." Natural Hazards [10.1007/s11069-023-06096-6] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Earth observations into action: the systemic integration of earth observation applications into national risk reduction decision structures." Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal [10.1108/dpm-09-2022-0186] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Global Landslide Forecasting System for Hazard Assessment and Situational Awareness." Frontiers in Earth Science 10 [10.3389/feart.2022.878996] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Global assessment of the capability of satellite precipitation products to retrieve landslide-triggering extreme rainfall events." Earth Interactions 1-42 [10.1175/ei-d-21-0022.1] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Insights from the topographic characteristics of a large global catalog of rainfall-induced landslide event inventories." Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 22 (3): 1129-1149 [10.5194/nhess-22-1129-2022] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Satellites Support Disaster Response to Storm-Driven Landslides." Eos 102 [10.1029/2021eo161725] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Data-Driven Landslide Nowcasting at the Global Scale." Frontiers in Earth Science 9 [10.3389/feart.2021.640043] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Global connections between El Nino and landslide impacts." Nature Communications 12 (1): 2262 [10.1038/s41467-021-22398-4] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Co-variation of silicate, carbonate and sulfide weathering drives CO2 release with erosion." Nature Geoscience 14 (4): 211-216 [10.1038/s41561-021-00714-3] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Landslide Hazard and Exposure Modelling in Data‐Poor Regions: The Example of the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh." Earth's Future 9 (2): [10.1029/2020ef001666] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "New global characterisation of landslide exposure." Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 20 (12): 3413-3424 [10.5194/nhess-20-3413-2020] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Review article: Natural hazard risk assessments at the global scale." Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 20 (4): 1069-1096 [10.5194/nhess-20-1069-2020] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Weathering of Reactive Mineral Phases in Landslides Acts as a Source of Carbon Dioxide in Mountain Belts." Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 123 (10): 2695-2713 [10.1029/2018jf004672] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Combined effect of carbonate and biotite dissolution in landslides biases silicate weathering proxies." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 213 418-434 [10.1016/j.gca.2017.07.014] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Oxidation of sulfides and rapid weathering in recent landslides." Earth Surface Dynamics 4 (3): 727-742 [10.5194/esurf-4-727-2016] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Chemical weathering in active mountain belts controlled by stochastic bedrock landsliding." Nature Geoscience 9 (1): 42-45 [10.1038/ngeo2600] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Continuous catchment-scale monitoring of geomorphic processes with a 2-D seismological array." Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 118 (3): 1956-1974 [10.1002/jgrf.20137] [Journal Article/Letter]