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 Sentinel 1-A 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

October 5, 2016
NASA-Produced Maps Help Gauge Italy Earthquake Damage
NASA/JPL-Caltech-produced maps of damage in and around Amatrice, Italy, from the Aug. 2016, quake, based on ground surface changes detected by Italian and Japanese radar satellites. The color variations from yellow to red indicate increasingly more significant ground surface change. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JAXA/ASI/European Union - Joint Research Centre/Google Earth A NASA-funded program provided valuable information for responders and groups supporting the recovery efforts for the Aug...
August 31, 2016
ARIA Damage Proxy Map from COSMO-SkyMed SAR DataShowing Change Between Aug 20 – Aug 28, 2016
Damage proxy maps (DPM) of the area impacted by the Amatrice earthquake, derived from COSMO-SkyMed SAR data (KMZ file).  ARIA Damage Proxy Map from COSMO-SkyMed SAR Data Showing Change Between Aug 20 – Aug 28, 2016  Derived from COSMO-SkyMed SAR Data (Aug 28) Coverage: 40 km x 50 km Resolution: 30 m Calibrated with Copernicus map Product formats: KMZ,...
August 26, 2016
Radar image of Amatrice Italy Earthquake
NASA and its partners are contributing observations and expertise to the ongoing response to the Aug. 23, 2016, magnitude 6.2 Amatrice earthquake in central Italy caused widespread building damage to several towns throughout the region. This earthquake was the strongest in that area since the 2009 earthquake that destroyed the city of L'Aquila. Scientists with the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis project (ARIA), a collaboration between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena...
May 11, 2015
The perspective image (Figure 1) shows the DPM overlaid on the terrain with the locations of landslides identified by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) preliminary damage assessment, using before and after optical imagery (May 4 damage ass
Figure 1 Figure 2 NASA data and expertise are providing valuable information for the ongoing response to the April 25, 2015, magnitude 7.8 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal. The quake has caused a significant humanitarian crisis and has killed more than 8,000 due to widespread building damage and triggered landslides...
May 8, 2015
Hazardous Landslide-dammed Lake, Pisang, Annapurna Region, Nepal
The April 25, 2015 magnitude 7.8 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal produced a landslide dam on the Marshyangdi River, 1.1 miles (1,800 meters) upstream from the village of Lower Pisang. The dam has impounded the river, produced a landslide-dammed lake extending approximately 1,722 feet (525 meters) up the river, and satellite imagery shows that the lake area is expanding with time. Landslide dams can be inherently unstable and may fail suddenly,...

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