recommended reading

Space Radar Could Predict Massive Sinkholes a Month Before They Collapse

A sinkhole covers a street intersection in downtown Guatemala City, Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

A sinkhole covers a street intersection in downtown Guatemala City, Wednesday, June 2, 2010. // Moises Castillo/AP File Photo

The idea of the ground opening without warning and swallowing you up is nightmare fuel. As populations grow and humans invent new ways to plunder underground resources, sinkholes are only becoming more common—just look at the US sinkhole capital, Florida.

But America’s space agency, NASA, said today it may have developed a way to predict sinkholes up to a month before the ground collapses, saving lives and money. The early warning is provided by interferometric synthetic aperture radar (iSAR), which could be mounted on planes or satellites to scan sinkhole prone areas.

iSAR scans the ground multiple times in multiple wavelengths to put together interferograms, which can show tiny movements of the earth, including the ripples of earthquakes, the effects of flooding on riverbanks, or where the ground is sinking. This interferogram shows the ground sinking near oil wells in California:

subsidence

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been monitoring changing ground conditions along the US Gulf Coast as part of research into iSAR. When a nasty sinkhole formed at Bayou Corne, Louisiana, in 2012, researchers went back and examined radar scans in the same area a month and a year before the cave-in. They found that the ground surface layer had moved as much as 10 inches (26 cm) toward the sinkhole’s center.  The sinkhole was caused by a company owned by Occidental Petroleum mining too closely to a geological feature called a salt dome.

The researchers say this data, published in last month’s issue of the scientific journal Geology, shows that once the technology is more widely used and deployed on satellite platforms, not just airplanes, it can be used to tell when the earth is about to transform into a gaping maw. The US and India are collaborating to launch an iSAR-equipped satellite sometime in the next seven years.

Reprinted with permission from Quartz. The original story can be found here

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.