Earthquakes have been responsible for devastating losses of life and property. So far, no reliable method has been found to predict earthquake activity, but a new satellite technology shows promise. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Carol Raymond is a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
” The InSAR method, which stands for Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar, is a method where a satellite can detect very minute changes in the surface of the Earth from space by taking a radar image and then coming back and looking from the exact same vantage point at the same piece of ground and thereby detecting changes that have occurred that are within about 10 centimeters of motion. And by this method you can detect motions down to a centimeter per year or possibly even a millimeter per year of change across areas in a continuous fashion. And this is turning out to be a very, very powerful tool for understanding how the Earth works.”
The Earth’s plates are enormous pieces of our planet’s crust which cover its surface like a giant jigsaw. Earthquakes occur when the boundaries of these plates slip past each other. Monitoring the movement of the surface of the Earth on a large scale could give scientists clues to an imminent quake.
“The InSAR technique has been proven in space by European research satellites and been used to study many earthquakes. What we’re proposing here is to continue that very successful trend by launching satellites which are more capable of doing methodical mapping of surface deformation over the entire Earth.”
We’ll hear more on earthquake prediction in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.