Studying satellite radar data from ESA's Envisat and the Italian Space Agency's COSMO-SkyMed, scientists have begun analysing the movement of Earth during and after the 6.3 earthquake that shook the medieval town of L'Aquila in central Italy on 6 April 2009.
Scientists are studying Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data from these satellites to map surface deformations after the earthquake and the numerous aftershocks that have followed. SAR Interferometry involves combining two or more radar images of the same ground location in such a way that very precise measurements – down to a scale of a few millimetres – can be made of any ground motion taking place between image acquisitions.
The InSAR technique merges data acquired before and after the earthquake to generate 'interferogram' images that appear as rainbow-coloured interference patterns. A complete set of coloured bands, called 'fringes', represents ground movement relative to the spacecraft. The interferogram shows nine fringes surrounding a maximum displacement area located midway between L'Aquila and Fossa, where the ground moved as much as 25 cm (along a line between the satellite's orbital position and the earthquake area).
To ensure all scientists are able to contribute to the analysis of the earthquake, ESA is making its Earth observation dataset collected over the L'Aquila area freely accessible with an innovative fast data download mechanism. The dataset will be continuously updated with the newest Envisat acquisitions.
Text from AAAS EurekAlerts.
Figure from European Space Agency, from where more data are available.