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ã2017 California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged.
NISAR: The NASA-ISRO SAR Mission
A Sinking Feeling
Land subsidence frequently occurs at a very slow rate,
much too slowly to be identified visually and often only
detectable by advanced sensors. It often goes unnoticed
until the consequences become manifestly evident –
buckling bridges, cracked foundations, the too-frequent
occurrence of 100-year (or more) floods. Often at that
point the processes causing the ground to sink are well
underway, and damage continues to accrue before they
can be stopped. This insidious hazard is both difficult to
identify and costly if not discovered.
Subsidence and a Sinking
Landscape
Subsidence often goes unnoticed until the damage is done. Because land sinks
too slowly or over too broad an area to be visible to the eye, the effects of
subsidence are rarely recognized when they begin. Those same changes in
land elevation can be detected from spaceborne synthetic aperture radar.
Subsidence: How Low Will It Go?
Subsidence, or the gradual sinking of the land surface, affects land,
buildings and roads throughout the U.S. Even the Washington
Monument has been affected. The iconic structure, built on the marshy
shores of the Potomac River, has subsided by ~2” since its construction.
Subsidence occurs naturally in areas with high organic matter content in
the soil through a combination of compaction and oxidation. For this
reason, subsidence is often associated with swampy and coastal areas.
However, the range of underlying causes is much more diverse, and
includes geological factors, e.g., faults or sinkholes, plus a host of causes
related to man’s use of land and resources. Regardless of the cause,
the consequences can be severe: cracked foundations, warped roads
and bridges, and more frequent flooding of cities and towns, all of
which take an economic and sometimes personal toll on people.
The NISAR Mission – Reliable, Consistent Observations
The NASA–ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, a collaboration
between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), will provide all-weather,
day/night imaging of nearly the entire land and ice masses of the Earth
repeated 4-6 times per month. NISAR’s orbiting radars will image at
resolutions of 5-10 meters to identify and track subtle movement of the
Earth’s land and its sea ice, and even provide information about what is
happening below the surface. Its repeated set of high resolution images can
inform resource management and be used to detect small-scale changes
before they are visible to the eye. Products are expected to be available 1-2
days after observation, and within hours in response to disasters, providing
actionable, timely data for many applications.
.
Photos (clockwise): Carol M. Highsmith Archive/Library of Congress, Calif. DWR, USGS, NASA/JPL-Caltech
NISAR: The NASA-ISRO SAR Mission
ã2017 California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged.
Continued from front page
Subsidence is a problem that exists at different scales in
numerous locations around the world. The sinking of San
Francisco’s Millennium Tower and across the city of New
Orleans are just two examples. Decreased land elevation,
the cumulative effect of long-term subsidence, has
resulted in more frequent and deeper flooding. This can
cause tidal waters or rainfall to generate nuisance
flooding and even dangerously high water in some low-
lying coastal cities. Knowledge of the extent and rate of
the problem can help in making better choices for
infrastructure investment and restoration activities that
protect people and property. However, at the most basic
level, improving resiliency and dealing with subsidence
requires understanding the underlying processes driving
the change, which will inform both immediate action and
better modeling of future subsidence, flood risk, and ways
to halt or reverse the sinking.
The sinking can be caused both by natural events and
human actions, so elevation change at any given location
depends on a unique set of local and regional conditions.
Many measurements, spread across a broad scale and
extending for a long time, are needed to tease out the
relative contributions when multiple processes are
involved. Human activities are often the primary
contributor, including oil and gas extraction, groundwater
pumping, and even drainage projects intended to reduce
standing water. All of these activities can be performed in
ways that do not cause damage, given proper information
about the relationship between the activity and the
ground movement.
Modern radar remote sensing methods can revolutionize
the way that land is monitored, significantly increasing the
number of areas where subsidence rates are measured.
Instead of costly in-ground instruments, satellite-based
instruments can detect changes in elevation of the ground
and structures across large areas via a technique called
synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR). InSAR
relies upon repeat imaging of an area from the same
vantage point in space to measure changes in the distance
between the radar antenna and the ground.
To measure slow subsidence, a large number of repeated
images collected at regular intervals for several years is
needed. Space-based Earth observing radar instruments
are able to measure subsidence hazards across a large
enough region to encompass all at-risk cities in the United
States. NASA’s NISAR radar will be able to collect the
needed images, and its products will be open access,
available through the Alaska Satellite Facility.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration For more information, visit http://nisar.jpl.nasa.gov/applications
Jet Propulsion Laboratory / California Institute of Technology / Pasadena, California / www.jpl.nasa.gov
Map showing subsidence in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana,
produced using data from the NASA UAVSAR instrument [C. Jones et al.,
2016]. UAVSAR is an airborne prototype for the upcoming NISAR
mission, which will provide regularly repeated images of cities such as
New Orleans.
Localized Land Subsidence Seen by Radar
New Orleans is one of the most endangered cities in the world. A
large portion of the metropolitan area lies below mean sea level,
while its location on the Mississippi River delta also puts it at risk of
flooding both from gulf waters pushed inland during hurricanes and
tropical storms, and from high water in the Mississippi River during
springtime floods. Knowledge of subsidence ‘hot spots’ and their
probable cause is particularly critical because, if undetected,
unexpected flooding can endanger residents and property.
High resolution radar instruments can be used to identify the areas
that are subsiding most rapidly, and can also identify subsiding or
deforming structures, such as in a residential neighborhood shown
at the right. In this example, radar interferometry (InSAR) shows
that houses in the most recently developed area (yellow to orange)
are subsiding more rapidly than houses in adjacent neighborhoods
built in earlier years. This type of change could be normal
consolidation of material added during construction, which would
stop after a few years, or could indicate deeper, longer-lasting
processes at work. Sustained, multi-year observations will provide
the information needed to determine the cause.

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NISAR NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR)Subsidence

  • 1. ã2017 California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged. NISAR: The NASA-ISRO SAR Mission A Sinking Feeling Land subsidence frequently occurs at a very slow rate, much too slowly to be identified visually and often only detectable by advanced sensors. It often goes unnoticed until the consequences become manifestly evident – buckling bridges, cracked foundations, the too-frequent occurrence of 100-year (or more) floods. Often at that point the processes causing the ground to sink are well underway, and damage continues to accrue before they can be stopped. This insidious hazard is both difficult to identify and costly if not discovered. Subsidence and a Sinking Landscape Subsidence often goes unnoticed until the damage is done. Because land sinks too slowly or over too broad an area to be visible to the eye, the effects of subsidence are rarely recognized when they begin. Those same changes in land elevation can be detected from spaceborne synthetic aperture radar. Subsidence: How Low Will It Go? Subsidence, or the gradual sinking of the land surface, affects land, buildings and roads throughout the U.S. Even the Washington Monument has been affected. The iconic structure, built on the marshy shores of the Potomac River, has subsided by ~2” since its construction. Subsidence occurs naturally in areas with high organic matter content in the soil through a combination of compaction and oxidation. For this reason, subsidence is often associated with swampy and coastal areas. However, the range of underlying causes is much more diverse, and includes geological factors, e.g., faults or sinkholes, plus a host of causes related to man’s use of land and resources. Regardless of the cause, the consequences can be severe: cracked foundations, warped roads and bridges, and more frequent flooding of cities and towns, all of which take an economic and sometimes personal toll on people. The NISAR Mission – Reliable, Consistent Observations The NASA–ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), will provide all-weather, day/night imaging of nearly the entire land and ice masses of the Earth repeated 4-6 times per month. NISAR’s orbiting radars will image at resolutions of 5-10 meters to identify and track subtle movement of the Earth’s land and its sea ice, and even provide information about what is happening below the surface. Its repeated set of high resolution images can inform resource management and be used to detect small-scale changes before they are visible to the eye. Products are expected to be available 1-2 days after observation, and within hours in response to disasters, providing actionable, timely data for many applications. . Photos (clockwise): Carol M. Highsmith Archive/Library of Congress, Calif. DWR, USGS, NASA/JPL-Caltech
  • 2. NISAR: The NASA-ISRO SAR Mission ã2017 California Institute of Technology. Government sponsorship acknowledged. Continued from front page Subsidence is a problem that exists at different scales in numerous locations around the world. The sinking of San Francisco’s Millennium Tower and across the city of New Orleans are just two examples. Decreased land elevation, the cumulative effect of long-term subsidence, has resulted in more frequent and deeper flooding. This can cause tidal waters or rainfall to generate nuisance flooding and even dangerously high water in some low- lying coastal cities. Knowledge of the extent and rate of the problem can help in making better choices for infrastructure investment and restoration activities that protect people and property. However, at the most basic level, improving resiliency and dealing with subsidence requires understanding the underlying processes driving the change, which will inform both immediate action and better modeling of future subsidence, flood risk, and ways to halt or reverse the sinking. The sinking can be caused both by natural events and human actions, so elevation change at any given location depends on a unique set of local and regional conditions. Many measurements, spread across a broad scale and extending for a long time, are needed to tease out the relative contributions when multiple processes are involved. Human activities are often the primary contributor, including oil and gas extraction, groundwater pumping, and even drainage projects intended to reduce standing water. All of these activities can be performed in ways that do not cause damage, given proper information about the relationship between the activity and the ground movement. Modern radar remote sensing methods can revolutionize the way that land is monitored, significantly increasing the number of areas where subsidence rates are measured. Instead of costly in-ground instruments, satellite-based instruments can detect changes in elevation of the ground and structures across large areas via a technique called synthetic aperture radar interferometry (InSAR). InSAR relies upon repeat imaging of an area from the same vantage point in space to measure changes in the distance between the radar antenna and the ground. To measure slow subsidence, a large number of repeated images collected at regular intervals for several years is needed. Space-based Earth observing radar instruments are able to measure subsidence hazards across a large enough region to encompass all at-risk cities in the United States. NASA’s NISAR radar will be able to collect the needed images, and its products will be open access, available through the Alaska Satellite Facility. National Aeronautics and Space Administration For more information, visit http://nisar.jpl.nasa.gov/applications Jet Propulsion Laboratory / California Institute of Technology / Pasadena, California / www.jpl.nasa.gov Map showing subsidence in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana, produced using data from the NASA UAVSAR instrument [C. Jones et al., 2016]. UAVSAR is an airborne prototype for the upcoming NISAR mission, which will provide regularly repeated images of cities such as New Orleans. Localized Land Subsidence Seen by Radar New Orleans is one of the most endangered cities in the world. A large portion of the metropolitan area lies below mean sea level, while its location on the Mississippi River delta also puts it at risk of flooding both from gulf waters pushed inland during hurricanes and tropical storms, and from high water in the Mississippi River during springtime floods. Knowledge of subsidence ‘hot spots’ and their probable cause is particularly critical because, if undetected, unexpected flooding can endanger residents and property. High resolution radar instruments can be used to identify the areas that are subsiding most rapidly, and can also identify subsiding or deforming structures, such as in a residential neighborhood shown at the right. In this example, radar interferometry (InSAR) shows that houses in the most recently developed area (yellow to orange) are subsiding more rapidly than houses in adjacent neighborhoods built in earlier years. This type of change could be normal consolidation of material added during construction, which would stop after a few years, or could indicate deeper, longer-lasting processes at work. Sustained, multi-year observations will provide the information needed to determine the cause.