Remote Sensing Radar Detects Sinkholes

March 12, 2014
By Cyndy Hogan

Recent analysis of 2012 airborne radar data NASA collected remotely suggests the data could predict large sinkholes before they occur, such as one that caused evacuations near Bayou Corne, Louisiana. Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) examined interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) imagery of the Bayou Corne area and determined that the ground surface layer showed significant malformations at least a month before the collapse, moving mostly horizontally about 10 inches toward where the sinkhole eventually formed.

The InSAR data came from flights of NASA’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, which uses a C-20A jet, and senses and measures subtle malformations in Earth’s surface.

“Our work shows radar remote sensing could offer a monitoring technique for identifying at least some sinkholes before the surface collapses and could be of particular use to the petroleum industry for monitoring operations in salt domes,” says Ron Blom of the JPL.

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