ARIA image of Earth

Mapping Disasters from Space

Oct. 4 & 5

Space-based geodetic measurement techniques such as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS), and SAR-based change detection have recently become critical additions to our toolset for understanding and mapping the damage caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, hurricanes and floods. The ability of space-based SAR to see through clouds to image changes on the ground made it a valuable data set in FEMA’s response last year’s Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria. The large footprint of some of the current SAR missions enables a synoptic view of the damage, both in urban and more remote areas, helpful in identifying damage outside of the main city centers following the 2015 Nepal earthquake and 2017 Mexico earthquakes.

The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) project is focused on rapidly generating higher level geodetic imaging products and placing them in the hands of the solid earth science and local, national, and international natural hazard communities by providing science product generation, exploration, and delivery capabilities at an operational level. Analyses of these data sets have been largely handcrafted following each event and are not generated rapidly and reliably enough for response to natural disasters or for timely analysis of large data sets. The ARIA project, a joint California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) venture, has been capturing the knowledge applied to these responses and building it into an automated infrastructure to generate imaging products in near real-time that can improve situational awareness for disaster response.

Sue Owen

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