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Alexander Handwerger

Photo of Alexander Handwerger


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 300-323

Pasadena, CA 91109





Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Earth Surface and Interior


My research is directed towards understanding the environmental controls on landslide and rock glacier motion. To better constrain the mechanisms that control landslides and rock glaciers, I use satellite and airborne synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR) and pixel offset tracking with SAR and optical imagery to quantify their motion. I examine relationships between kinematics and precipitation and also develop and apply mechanical-hydrological models. Current work is focused on examining how landslides are responding to extreme precipitation; identifying precursory deformations that precede catastrophic landslides; developing mechanical-hydrological models that can describe slow, steady motion and runaway acceleration of landslides; developing open-access tools for landslide detection for rapid response; inventorying active slow-moving landslides and rock glaciers in the Western US; characterizing rock glacier kinematics in response to changes in snow melt and in different climate regimes; quantifying the amount of water stored in rock glaciers.


  • PhD, Geological Sciences, University of Oregon (2015)
  • BA, Earth Sciences, Boston University (2008)

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Researcher, Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, University of California Los Angeles and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2020 - present)
  • Visiting Assistant Researcher, Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering, University of California Los Angeles and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2019)
  • NASA Postdoctoral Fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2016-2019)
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Oregon (2015)
  • Graduate Teaching Fellow, University of Oregon (2009–2015)

Research Interests

Landslides, Rock Glaciers, Geodesy (InSAR), Process Geomorphology, Landscape Evolution, Groundwater hydrology, Gas hydrates and Submarine Landslides.

Selected Awards

  • NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship (2016)
  • Johnston Scholarship Travel Grant, University of Oregon Department of Geological Sciences, (2011, 2013, 2014 )

Selected Publications

  1. Handwerger, A. L., Booth, A. M., Huang, M.-H., and Fielding, E. J., (2021), Inferring the Subsurface Geometry, Stress, and Strength of Slow-moving Landslides using 3D Velocity Measurements from the NASA/JPL UAVSAR, Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, e2020JF005898,
  2. Brencher, G., Handwerger, A. L., and Munroe, J. S., (2021), InSAR-based characterization of rock glacier movement in the Uinta Mountains, Utah, USA, The Cryosphere, 15, 4823–4844,
  3. Finnegan, N. J., Perkins, J. P., Nereson, A. L., and Handwerger, A. L., (2021), Unsaturated flow processes and the onset of seasonal deformation in slow-moving landslides, Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, e2020JF005758,
  4. Dille, A., Kervyn, F., Handwerger, A. L., d’Oreye, N., Derauw, D., Bibentyo, T. M., Samsonov, S., Malet, J.-P., Kervyn, M., and Dewitte, O., (2021), When image correlation is needed: unravelling the complex dynamics of a slow-moving landslide in the tropics with dense radar and optical time series, Remote Sensing of Environment, 258, 112402,
  5. Liao, T.-H., Kim, S.-B, Handwerger, A. L., Fielding, E. J., Cosh, M., and Schulz, W. H., (2021), High-Resolution Soil Moisture Maps Over Landslide Regions in Northern California Grassland Derived from SAR Backscattering Coefficients, Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing, vol. 14, pp. 4547-4560,
  6. Lacroix, P., Handwerger, A. L., and Bièvre, G., (2020), Life and death of slow-moving landslides, Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, 1-16,
  7. Bekaert, D., Handwerger, A. L., Agram, P., and Kirschbaum, D. B., (2020), InSAR-based detection method for mapping and monitoring slow-moving landslides in remote regions with steep and mountainous terrain: An application to Nepal, Remote Sensing of Environment, 249, 111983,
  8. Handwerger, A. L., Fielding, E. J., Huang, M.-H., Bennett, G. L., Liang, C., and Schulz, W. H., (2019), Widespread initiation, reactivation, and acceleration of landslides in the northern California Coast Ranges due to extreme rainfall, Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 124(7), 1782- 1797,
  9. Handwerger, A. L., Huang, M.-H., Fielding, E. J., Booth, A., and Bürgmann, R., (2019), A shift from drought to extreme rainfall drives a stable landslide to catastrophic failure, Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1569,
  10. Hu, X., Bürgmann, R., Lu, Z., Handwerger, A. L., Wang, T., and Miao, R., (2019), Mobility, thickness, and hydraulic diffusivity of the slow-moving Monroe landslide in California revealed by L-band satellite radar interferometry, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 124(7), 7504-7518.
  11. Finnegan, N. J., Broudy, K. N., Nereson, A. L., Roering, J.J., Handwerger, A. L., and Bennett, G., (2019), River Channel Width Controls Blocking by Slow-moving Landslides in California’s Franciscan Mèlange, Earth Surface Dynamics, 7, 879-894,
  12. Handwerger, A. L., Rempel, A. W., and Skarbek, R. M., (2017), Submarine landslides triggered by destabilization of high-saturation hydrate anomalies, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 18, 2429- 2445,
  13. Handwerger, A. L., Rempel, A. W., Skarbek, R. M., Roering, J. J., and Hilley, G. E., (2016), Rate-weakening friction characterizes both slow sliding and catastrophic failure of landslides, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(37), 10281-10286,
  14. Bennett, G. L., Roering, J. J., Mackey, B. H., Handwerger, A. L., Schmidt, D. A., and Guillod, B. P., (2016), Historic drought puts the brakes on earthflows in Northern California, Geophysical Research Letters, 43(11), 5725-5731,
  15. Handwerger, A. L., Roering, J. J., Schmidt, D. A., and Rempel, A. W., (2015), Kinematics of Earth- flows in the Northern California Coast Ranges using Satellite Interferometry, Geomorphology, 246, 321- 333,
  16. Roering, J. J., Mackey, B. H., Handwerger, A. L., Booth, A. M., Schmidt, D. A., Bennett, G. L., and Cerovski-Darriau, C., (2015), Beyond the angle of repose: A review and synthesis of landslide processes in response to rapid uplift, Eel River, Northern California, Geomorphology, 236, 109-131,
  17. Handwerger, A. L., Roering, J. J., and Schmidt, D. A. (2013), Controls on the seasonal deformation of slow-moving landslides, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 377, 239-247.
  18. Roering, J. J., Mackey, B. H., Marshall, J. A., Sweeney, K. E., Deligne, N. I., Booth, A. M., Handwerger, A. L., and Cerovski-Darriau, C., (2013), ’You are HERE’: Connecting the dots with airborne lidar for geo- morphic fieldwork, Geomorphology, 200, 172-183,