Earth Surface Change Science


Agriculture & Environment

Project Description

The dramatic expansion in the quantity and quality of available satellite data enable a synoptic but high-resolution perspective on changes at the Earth’s surface associated with both natural and anthropogenic processes. These data afford us the possibility of addressing critical issues that are fundamental to Earth science while at the same time play key roles in strengthening societal resilience. This component of the Caltech/KACST Initiative will focus on two elements with the following objectives over 6 years:

  • Develop synoptic InSAR-based maps of the Middle East to advance scientific understanding and monitoring of deformation and surface change in the broadly defined area encompassing KSA and its geographic neighbors. This element will enable situational awareness following natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods) throughout the region as well as provide key scientific data for geophysical analysis of such events. Expected products include deformation maps and damage proxy maps after natural and man-made disasters. This effort complements similar activities under development for California. MEM will also be used as fundamental data for the aquifer studies (please see aquifer white paper).

  • Develop techniques and capabilities for quantifying surface change and disturbances at the individual building scale over large areas using high-resolution SAR sensors. Accelerated urbanization and aging leaves urban infrastructure vulnerable to failure. Tunneling, ground water and oil extraction represent a significant source of disturbance that can strain infrastructure. Bridges, large buildings and mass transit networks are susceptible to subsidence and need to be constantly monitored and managed. This program element explores the potential of monitoring disturbance at the scale of individual buildings. This challenge involves significant algorithmic improvements to SAR processing with an emphasis on high performance computing approaches. Substantial effort is also needed to integrate SAR/InSAR products with existing GIS frameworks for use in conjunction with other urban planning datasets (e.g., building heights, mass transit routes).

  • Team Members