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:


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


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

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

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


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