Earthquakes

Overview

About 50 earthquakes occur each day around the world. Although most of these do not have a noticeable effect on life and work, large-magnitude earthquakes occurring near cities and towns can cause catastrophic devastation through destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Earthquakes occurring near coastlines or under oceans also have the ability of generating tsunamis with waves over 100 feet high that can sweep away buildings, causing extensive damage in coastal regions. Immediately following an earthquake, aftershocks, or subsequent earthquakes, may continue for weeks, causing additional damage and hampering recovery. Since 2015, over 10,000 people around the world have died from earthquakes and tsunamis.

An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor or temblor) is the perceptible shaking of the surface of the Earth, resulting from the sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves.

Examples of catastrophic damage caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, and earthquake-triggered landslides.

Examples of catastrophic damage caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, and earthquake-triggered landslides:

(a)    Damage suffered in Amatrice, Italy, from a M6.2 earthquake on August 24, 2016. Almost 300 people were killed as a result of this Central Italy earthquake (image credit, New York Times).

(b)    Tsunami resulting from the March-2011 Tohoku M9.1 undersea earthquake in Japan (image credit, ABC).

(c)    Landslide triggered as a result of the April-2015 Gorkha M7.6 earthquake in Nepal (image credit, Science).

To help assess the event and provide situational awareness due to these natural occurrences, NASA utilizes expertise in sensor networks and remote sensing. These data products can support search and rescue efforts and determine disaster impact to aid stakeholder efforts in emergency response and recovery.

NASA research tools utilized for disaster response.

One example of the NASA Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) capabilities is shown below. ARIA relies mainly on satellite radar datasets collected primarily using Copernicus Sentinel 1-A processed by ESA and ALOS-2 SAR instruments. Data products derived from satellite radar datasets are not impacted by cloud cover and can be acquired during day or night. Maps are available between within a day to several days after the earthquake, depending on the availability of earliest post-earthquake radar observations.

Examples of damage proxy maps (DPMs) generated following the Central Italy M6.2 earthquake on August 24, 2016

Examples of damage proxy maps (DPMs) generated following the Central Italy M6.2 earthquake on August 24, 2016. DPMs generated by the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) project and the Copernicus team. ARIA DPMs utilize satellite data to detect locations where an earthquake has caused significant damage (source: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA21091).

Besides these disaster response and recovery tools, NASA can also apply capabilities of its airborne instruments in order to assess the impacts of catastrophic events. These instruments include optical (AVIRIS, AVIRIS-NG), radar (UAVSAR), and LiDAR (ASO) capabilities that can be deployed to image affected areas. An example of UAVSAR relevance to earthquake events is shown below where ground movement is quantified following an initial earthquake.

UAVSAR data following the 2010 Mexicali earthquake.

UAVSAR data following the 2010 Mexicali earthquake.

Source: https://uavsar.jpl.nasa.gov/images/what-is-uavsar/Slide22.jpg

Latest Updates

February 17, 2018
Motion towards satellite (up and west) in radar line-of-sight direction.
Interferogram from modified Copernicus Sentinel-1 SAR data acquired 2018/02/17 and 02/05 shows earthquake fault slip on subduction megathrust beneath coast caused up to 40 cm of uplift of the ground surface. Interferometric SAR (InSAR) analysis was automatically performed by Caltech-JPL ARIA data system. Main image shows motion towards satellite (up and west) in radar line-of-sight direction. Additional images show motion contoured with 9 cm (image 2) and 2.8 cm (image 3) color contours, also known as fringes, displayed in Google Earth. Symbols show preliminary USGS and Mexican seismic...
February 17, 2018
SARs image of the Oaxaca Mexico Earthquake.
Rewrapped Sentinel-1 Interferogram for the M7.2 Pinotepa de Don Luis, Mexico earthquake from Feb 16, 2018.  Ascending Sentinel-1 SAR interferogram rewrapped to 10cm color contours of line-of-sight surface deformation. The frame was processed automatically by the UAF SARVIEWS processing service (http://sarviews-hazards.alaska.edu/). Sentinel-1 data from 02/05/18 and 02/17/18 was used. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [2018]. Data accessed through the Alaska Satellite Facility....
September 21, 2017
Sentinel-1 radar map for September 2017 Raboso-Puebla Earthquake in Mexico indicates relatively small permanent ground motions
NASA and its partners are contributing important observations and expertise to the ongoing response to the September 19, 2017, magnitude 7.1 Puebla earthquake in Mexico. This earthquake has caused widespread building damage and triggered landslides throughout the region, including Mexico City. Scientists with the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis project (ARIA), a collaboration between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and the...
September 21, 2017
Mexico City Damage Proxy Map
NASA’s ARIA Damage Proxy Map of the M7.1 Raboso, Mexico, earthquake was created from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite SAR data and is available to download from: http://aria-share.jpl.nasa.gov/events/20170919-M7.1_Raboso_Mexico_EQ/DPM The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Caltech, also in Pasadena,...
September 13, 2017
ARIA Damage Proxy Map v0.5
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, created this Damage Proxy Map (DPM) depicting areas of Southern Mexico that are likely damaged as a result of the M8.1 September 7, 2017 (near midnight local time, early morning on 8th UTC) Chiapas earthquake, shown by red and yellow pixels. The map is derived from...

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