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Remote Monitoring of the Earthquake Cycle using Satellite Radar Interferometry

Tim J Wright(1) and Gareth Funning(1)

(1) COMET, Oxford University, Oxford, OX1 3PR, United Kingdom


The earthquake cycle is poorly understood. Earthquakes continue to occur on previously unrecognized faults. Earthquake prediction seems impossible. These remain the facts despite nearly 100 years of intensive study since the earthquake cycle was first conceptualized. InSAR has the potential to solve these problems. In this paper, we review some of the remarkable observations of earthquake cycle deformation carried out in the last 10 years using InSAR. These include studies of at least 30 earthquakes (more than double the number of those whose deformation was measured by ground-based surveying before 1992). In addition, a small number of studies have measured the earth's strain during the interseismic period - key observatons for determining future seismic hazard. Post-seismic deformation has also been detected using InSAR after a few earthquakes, leading to an improved understanding of the rheological properties of the earth's crust. Most previous studies have been made using data from the ERS satellites. The short-term future should see results from Envisat, as well as the Canadian Radarsat and Japanese ALOS missions. In the medium-term, satellites dedicated to measuring the earth's deformation using InSAR should be launched. These would operate at L-band to improve coherence, fly in a tight orbital tube so that all images can be combined to make interferograms, acquire data on every pass over active tectonic and volcanic areas, and provide the data free of charge to scientific investigators.


Keywords: ESA European Space Agency - Agence spatiale europeenne, observation de la terre, earth observation, satellite remote sensing, teledetection, geophysique, altimetrie, radar, chimique atmospherique, geophysics, altimetry, radar, atmospheric chemistry