Monday, July 06, 2009

Satellite radar data to monitor faults, earthquakes in China

Western China is in a very seismically active area and has had many catastrophic earthquakes during its history. A joint European-Chinese team is using satellite radar data to monitor ground deformation across major continental faults in China to understand better the seismic cycle and how faults behave.

Using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite data and a technique known as SAR Interferometry (InSAR), along with GPS data, scientists participating in ESA’s Dragon 2 Programme have been able to measure the ground deformation that occurred during the Wenchuan earthquake that struck China’s Sichuan Province last May.

The Wenchuan earthquake occurred on the Longmen Shan fault, along the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau. Following major earthquakes, changes in stress along the faults in the region can lead to subsequent earthquakes. Using InSAR and GPS data, scientists are able to measure and monitor where and how this stress changes as well as how any associated deformation is distributed.

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