Engineering Geology

Mass movements in the Colombian Andes


Colombia, a tropical country located in the northern corner of South America, provides with the mountainous topography, a strong hydro-climatic variability, an active tectonic regime and complex geology optimal conditions for the evolution of landslides. Additional to these complex natural conditions, during the last decades the population growth and increasing urbanization of areas prone to landslides have increased the hazard and risk conditions.

Our project partner Edier Aristizabal showed in a recent study that in the period from 1900 to 2018 in Colombia more than 30000 landslides were recorded that cost more than 34000 lives (Aristizabal & Sánchez 2020).

The project

At the Department of Engineering Geology we are currently conducting two projects that are funded within the Program for Project-Related Personal Exchange (PPP) Colombia by the DAAD/BMBF. In this program, mutual visits of a German group and a partner group in Colombia are funded, including PhD and Master students. The visits of the Colombian group are funded by Minciencias.

Rainfall-induced landslides hazard analysis

The first project, which was funded in 2020 and 2021, is about a hazard analysis for rainfall-induced mass movements in the Colombian Andes. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the project could not take place as planned with mutual visits of the German and Colombian project partners. However, thanks to virtual collaboration, a bachelor's thesis on landslide mapping in Google Earth and a master's thesis on modeling landslide hazards in the Aburrá Valley with machine learning could be supervised at the Department of Engineering Geology. In addition, the scientists and students in both groups were able to exchange ideas in virtual seminars. In January 2022, we were finally able to travel to Colombia with the remaining funds from the project with one PhD student and two Master students. With our project partner at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellín and their students, we were able to conduct field work and learn about different projects for disaster risk reduction from mass movements in the Medellín metropolitan area. Currently, two master's theses are still ongoing in the project.

Investigation of large and relict landslides in the Colombian Andes

The second project is funded for the year 2022 and is concerned with particularly large and old landslides. We want to try to understand the triggering mechanisms of these landslides and hope to be able to draw conclusions for future risk conditions, e.g. with regard to seismic hazard or heavy rainfall events.

Team and project partners

Dr. Anika Braun is principal investigator of the project. Other participants in the Department of Engineering Geology are Katrin Dohmen and Prof. Tomas Fernandez-Steeger and master students.

In Colombia, we are cooperating with Asst. Prof. Edier Aristizabal at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellín and the members of his Geohazards Research Group.


The projects are/were funded within the Program for Project-Related Personal Exchange (PPP) Colombia by the DAAD/BMBF

Project-IDs: 57515692 und 57597842

Funding period: 2020-2021, 2022

Contact persons