NASA Model Looks at L.A. Quake Area

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/Google Earth

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., developed a model of the March 28, 2014, magnitude 5.1 La Habra, Calif. earthquake, based on the distribution of aftershocks and other seismic information from the U.S. Geological Survey. This image shows what the earthquake may look like to an interferometric synthetic aperture radar, such as NASA’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR).

The earthquake is believed to be associated with the Puente Hills Thrust fault, which zig-zags from Orange County northwest through downtown Los Angeles. The NASA model is based on a fault estimated to be 9 kilometers long, 5 kilometers deep and 3 kilometers wide. The modeled fault dips upward through the ground at a 60-degree angle, with one side of the fault moving at a slanted angle horizontally and vertically 10 centimeters relative to the other side. The model estimated the maximum displacement of Earth’s surface from the quake at approximately 1 centimeter, which is at the threshold of what is detectable with UAVSAR. The region of ground displacement is indicated by the darker blue area located in the right center of the image.

UAVSAR, (Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar) is mounted on NASA's Gulfstream C20-A III aircraft. Credit: NASA

In Nov. 2008, NASA JPL scientists began conducting a series of UAVSAR flights over regions of Northern and Southern California that are actively deforming and are marked by frequent earthquakes. About every six months, the scientists precisely repeat the same flight paths to produce images of ground deformation called interferograms. From these data, 3-D maps are being created for regions of interest, including the San Andreas and other California faults, extending from the Gulf of California in Mexico to Santa Rosa in the northern San Francisco Bay.

UAVSAR, which flies on a NASA C20-A III aircraft from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, measures ground deformation over large areas to a precision of 0.1 to 0.5 centimeters (0.04 to 0.2 inches).

By comparing the repeat-pass radar observations, scientists hope to measure any crustal deformations that may occur between observations, allowing them to ‘see’ the amount of strain building up on fault lines, and giving them a clearer picture of which faults are active and at what rates they’re moving, both before earthquakes and after them. The UAVSAR fault mapping project is designed to substantially improve knowledge of regional earthquake hazards in California. The 3-D UAVSAR data will allow scientists to bring entire faults into focus, allowing them to understand faults not just at their surfaces, but also at depth. When integrated into computer models, the data should give scientists a much clearer picture of California’s complex fault systems.

The scientists are estimating the total displacement occurring in each region. As additional observations are collected, they expect to be able to determine how strain is partitioned between individual faults.

The UAVSAR flights serve as a baseline for pre-earthquake activity. As earthquakes occur during the course of this project, the team is measuring the deformation at the time of the earthquakes to determine the distribution of slip on the faults, and then monitoring longer-term motions after the earthquakes to learn more about fault zone properties.

Airborne UAVSAR mapping can allow a rapid response after an earthquake to determine what fault was the source and which parts of the fault slipped during the earthquake. Information about the earthquake source can be used to estimate what areas were most affected by the earthquake shaking to guide rescue and damage assessment response.

The scientists now plan to acquire UAVSAR data from the region, possibly as soon as this week, and process the data to validate and improve the results of their model.

The model was developed as part of NASA’s QuakeSim project. The JPL-developed QuakeSim is a comprehensive, state-of-the-art software tool for simulating and understanding earthquake fault processes and improving earthquake forecasting. Initiated in 2002, QuakeSim uses NASA remote sensing and other earthquake-related data to simulate and model the behavior of faults in 3-D both individually and as part of complex, interacting systems. This provides long-term histories of fault behavior that can be used for statistical evaluation. QuakeSim also is used to identify regions of increased earthquake probabilities called hotspots.

For more on QuakeSim, visit:http://www.quakesim.org. For more information about UAVSAR, visit: http://uavsar.jpl.nasa.gov/.

 

Alan Buis 818-354-0474
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

 

The Ability to Foresee Sinkholes? NASA to the Rescue.

Aerial photo of a 25-acre sinkhole that formed unexpectedly near Bayou Corne, La., in Aug. 2012. Image Credit: On Wings of Care, New Orleans, La.

Analyses by NASA's UAVSAR after the Bayou Corne, La., sinkhole formed show it detected precursory ground movement of up to 10.2 inches (260 millimeters) more than a month before the sinkhole collapsed. Colors represent surface displacement (one full color wrap equals 4.7 inches (120 millimeters). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New analyses of NASA airborne radar data collected in 2012 reveal the radar detected indications of a huge sinkhole before it collapsed and forced evacuations near Bayou Corne, La. that year.

The findings suggest such radar data, if collected routinely from airborne systems or satellites, could at least in some cases foresee sinkholes before they

Sinkholes are common hazards worldwide and are found in all regions of the United States. This map shows parts of the United States where certain rock types are susceptible to dissolving in water, leading to the formation of underground cavities that can result in sinkholes. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

happen, decreasing danger to people and property.

Sinkholes are depressions in the ground formed when Earth surface layers collapse into caverns below. They usually form without warning. The data were collected as part of an ongoing NASA campaign to monitor sinking of the ground along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

Researchers Cathleen Jones and Ron Blom of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., analyzed interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) imagery of the area acquired during flights of the agency’s Uninhabited Airborne Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR), which uses a C-20A jet, in June 2011 and July 2012. InSAR detects and measures very subtle deformations in Earth’s surface.

Their analyses showed the ground surface layer deformed significantly at least a month before the collapse, moving mostly horizontally up to 10.2 inches (260 millimeters) toward where the sinkhole would later form. These precursory surface movements covered a much larger area — about 1,640 by 1,640 feet, (500 by 500 meters) — than that of the initial sinkhole, which measured about 2 acres (1 hectare).

Results of the study are published in the February issue of the journal Geology.

“While horizontal surface deformations had not previously been considered a signature of sinkholes, the new study shows they can precede sinkhole formation well in advance,” said Jones. “This kind of movement may be more common than previously thought, particularly in areas with loose soil near the surface.”

Sinkholes are common hazards worldwide and are found in all regions of the United States. This map shows parts of the United States where certain rock types are susceptible to dissolving in water, leading to the formation of underground cavities that can result in sinkholes. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

The Bayou Corne sinkhole formed unexpectedly Aug. 3, 2012, after weeks of minor earthquakes and bubbling natural gas that provoked community concern. It was caused by the collapse of a sidewall of an underground storage cavity connected to a nearby well operated by Texas Brine Company and owned by Occidental Petroleum. On-site investigation revealed the storage cavity, located more than 3,000 feet (914 meters) underground, had been mined closer to the edge of the subterranean Napoleonville salt dome than thought. The sinkhole, which filled with slurry –a fluid mixture of water and pulverized solids– has gradually expanded and now measures about 25 acres (10.1 hectares) and is at least 750 feet (229 meters) deep. It is still growing.

“Our work shows radar remote sensing could offer a monitoring technique for identifying at least some sinkholes before their surface collapse, and could be of particular use to the petroleum industry for monitoring operations in salt domes,” said Blom.

Cavern in salt dome such as that of the Napoleonville Salt Dome.

“Salt domes are dome-shaped structures in sedimentary rocks that form where large masses of salt are forced upward. By measuring strain on Earth’s surface, this capability can reduce risks and provide quantitative information that can be used to predict a sinkhole’s size and growth rate.”

Solution and collapse features of karst topography. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

Typically, sinkholes have no natural external surface drainage, and they form through natural processes and human activities. They occur in regions of “karst” terrain where the rock below the surface can be dissolved by groundwater, most commonly in areas with limestone or other carbonate rocks, gypsum, or salt beds. When the rocks dissolve, they form spaces and caverns underground. Sinkholes vary in size from a few feet across to hundreds of acres, and some can be very deep. They are common hazards worldwide and are found in all regions of the United States, with Florida, Missouri, Texas, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania reporting the most sinkhole damage. While sinkhole deaths are rare, in February 2013 a man in Tampa, Fla., was killed when his house was swallowed by a sinkhole.

The human-produced Bayou Corne sinkhole occurred in an area not prone to sinkholes. The Gulf Coast of Louisiana and eastern Texas sits on an ancient ocean floor with salt layers that form domes as the lower-density salt rises. The Napoleonville salt dome underneath Bayou Corne extends to within 690 feet (210 meters) of the surface. Various companies mine caverns in the dome by dissolving the salt to obtain brine and subsequently store fuels and salt water in the caverns.

Jones and Blom say continued UAVSAR monitoring of the area as recently as October 2013 has shown a widening area of deformation, with the potential to affect other nearby storage cavities located near the salt dome’s outer wall. Because the Bayou Corne sinkhole is now filled with water, it is harder to measure deformation of the area using InSAR. However, if the deformation extends far past the sinkhole boundaries, InSAR could continue to track surface movement caused by changes below the surface.

Continued growth of the sinkhole threatens the community and Highway 70, so there is a pressing need for reliable estimates of how fast it may expand and how big it may eventually get.

“This kind of data could be of great value in determining the direction in which the sinkhole is likely to expand,” said Jones. “At Bayou Corne, it appears that material is continuing to flow into the huge cavern that is undergoing collapse.”

Blom says there are no immediate plans to fly UAVSAR over sinkhole-prone areas.

 

J.D. Harrington
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-5241
j.d.harrington@nasa.gov

Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0474
alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

 

The Big, The Bad and The Ugly vs. Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Sockeye salmon crowd a small stream feeding Bristol Bay. Credit: Seattletimes.com

Release Date: 02/28/2014
Contact Information: Hanady Kader, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-0454, kader.hanady@epa.gov

Agency action begins process to prevent damage to world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery

(Washington, D.C.—Feb. 28, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is initiating a process under the Clean Water Act to identify appropriate options to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine has the potential to be one of the largest open pit copper mines ever developed and could threaten a salmon resource rare in its quality and productivity. During this process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve a permit for the mine. 

This action, requested by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, reflects the unique nature of the Bristol Bay watershed as one of the world’s last prolific wild salmon resources and the threat posed by the Pebble deposit, a mine unprecedented in scope and scale. It does not reflect an EPA policy change in mine permitting. 

“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the Agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

The EPA is basing its action on available information, including data collected as a part of the agency’s Bristol Bay ecological risk assessment and mine plans submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Today, Dennis McLerran, EPA Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10, sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Alaska, and the Pebble Partnership initiating action under EPA’s Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authorities.

 

Credit: Jeremy Symons

“Bristol Bay is an extraordinary natural resource, home to some of the most abundant salmon producing rivers in the world. The area provides millions of dollars in jobs and food resources for Alaska Native Villages and commercial fishermen,” McLerran said. “The science EPA reviewed paints a clear picture: Large-scale copper mining of the Pebble deposit would likely result in significant and irreversible harm to the salmon and the people and industries that rely on them.”

 

The Kennecott Copper Bingham Canyon Mine sits quiet after a landslide on April 11, 2013, in Bingham Canyon, Utah. Photos by Ravell Call / The Deseret News via AP

Today’s action follows the January 2014 release of EPA’s “Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska,” a study that documents the significant ecological resources of the region and the potentially destructive impacts to salmon and other fish from potential large-scale copper mining of the Pebble Deposit. The assessment indicates that the proposed Pebble Mine would likely cause irreversible destruction of streams that support salmon and other important fish species, as well as extensive areas of wetlands, ponds and lakes. 

In 2010, several Bristol Bay Alaska Native tribes requested that EPA take action under Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to protect the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon resources from development of the proposed Pebble Mine, a venture backed by Northern Dynasty Minerals. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to 31 Alaska Native Villages. Residents of the area depend on salmon as a major food resource and for their economic livelihood, with nearly all residents participating in subsistence fishing. 

Bristol Bay produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon with runs averaging 37.5 million fish each year. The salmon runs are highly productive due in large part to the exceptional water quality in streams and wetlands, which provide valuable salmon habitat. 

 

Photo Credit: Bob Waldrop

The Bristol Bay ecosystem generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and provides employment for over 14,000 full and part-time workers. The region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, Chinook, chum, and pink. In addition, it is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial mammal species, including bears, moose, and caribou. 

Based on information provided by The Pebble Partnership and Northern Dynasty Minerals, mining the Pebble deposit may involve excavation of a pit up to one mile deep and over 2.5 miles wide — the largest open pit ever constructed in North America. Disposal of mining waste may require construction of three or more massive earthen tailings dams as high as 650 feet. The Pebble deposit is located at the headwaters of Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, which produce about half of the sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay. 

The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The Act emphasizes protecting uses of the nation’s waterways, including fishing. 

The Clean Water Act generally requires a permit under Section 404 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before any person places dredge or fill material into wetlands, lakes and streams. Mining operations typically involve such activities and must obtain Clean Water Act Section 404 permits. Section 404 directs EPA to develop the environmental criteria the Army Corps uses to make permit decisions. It also authorizes EPA to prohibit or restrict fill activities if EPA determines such actions would have unacceptable adverse effects on fishery areas.

The steps in the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) review process are:

  • Step 1 – Consultation period with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and owners of the site, initiated today.
  • Step 2 – Publication of Proposed Determination, including proposed prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit, in Federal Register for public comment and one or more public hearings.
  • Step 3 – Review of public comments and development of Recommended Determination by EPA Regional Administrator to Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
  • Step 4 – Second consultation period with the Army Corps and site owners and development of Final Determination by Assistant Administrator for Water, including any final prohibitions or restrictions on mining the Pebble deposit.

Based on input EPA receives during any one of these steps, the agency could decide that further review under Section 404(c) is not necessary.

Now that the 404(c) process has been initiated, the Army Corps cannot issue a permit for fill in wetlands or streams associated with mining the Pebble deposit until EPA completes the 404(c) review process. 

EPA has received over 850,000 requests from citizens, tribes, Alaska Native corporations, commercial and sport fisherman, jewelry companies, seafood processors, restaurant owners, chefs, conservation organizations, members of the faith community, sport recreation business owners, elected officials and others asking EPA to take action to protect Bristol Bay.

For information on the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) visit:http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/dredgdis/upload/404c.pdf (PDF, 2 pp, 600K)

For information on the EPA Bristol Bay Assessment, visit: http://www2.epa.gov/bristolbay

Follow @EPAnorthwest on Twitter! https://twitter.com/EPAnorthwest

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NOAA GOES-13 Satellite Captures a Major U.S. Winter Storm

This visible image of the winter storm over the U.S. south and East Coast was taken by NOAA's GOES-13 satellite on Feb. 12 at 1855 UTC/1:55 p.m. EST. Snow covered ground can be seen over the Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

A new NASA video of NOAA’s GOES satellite imagery shows three days of movement of the massive winter storm that stretches from the southern U.S. to the northeast.

Visible and infrared imagery from NOAA’s GOES-East or GOES-13 satellite from Feb. 10 at 1815 UTC/1:15 p.m. EST to Feb. 12 to 1845 UTC/1:45 p.m. EST were compiled into a video made by NASA/NOAA’s GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.


This animation of NOAA’s GOES satellite data shows the progression of the major winter storm in the U.S. south from Feb. 10 at 1815 UTC/1:15 p.m. EST to Feb. 12 to 1845 UTC/1:45 p.m. EST.
Image Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters

In the video, viewers can see the development and movement of the clouds associated with the progression of the frontal system and related low pressure areas that make up the massive storm. The video also shows the snow covered ground over the Great Lakes region and Ohio Valley that stretches to northern New England. The clouds and fallen snow data from NOAA’s GOES-East satellite were overlaid on a true-color image of land and ocean created by data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites.

On February 12 at 10 a.m. EST, NOAA’s National Weather Service or NWS continued to issue watches and warnings from Texas to New England. Specifically, NWS cited Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories were in effect from eastern Texas eastward across the interior section of southeastern U.S. states and across much of the eastern seaboard including the Appalachians. Winter storm watches are in effect for portions of northern New England as well as along the western slopes of northern and central Appalachians.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center or WPC noted the storm is expected to bring “freezing rain spreading into the Carolinas, significant snow accumulations are expected in the interior Mid-Atlantic states tonight into Thursday and ice storm warnings and freezing rain advisories are in effect across much of central Georgia.

GOES satellites provide the kind of continuous monitoring necessary for intensive data analysis. Geostationary describes an orbit in which a satellite is always in the same position with respect to the rotating Earth. This allows GOES to hover continuously over one position on Earth’s surface, appearing stationary. As a result, GOES provide a constant vigil for the atmospheric “triggers” for severe weather conditions such as tornadoes, flash floods, hail storms and hurricanes.

 

Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Curiosity finds Earth as an Evening Star.

Earth from Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU

Earth and Moon from Mars, with a little help from NASA.

This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky. Earth is a little left of center in the image, and our moon is just below Earth.

Curiosity sef portrait. Credit: NASA

 

 

Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014). The image has been processed to remove effects of cosmic rays.

A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright “evening stars.”

The distance between Earth and Mars when Curiosity took the photo was about 99 million miles (160 million kilometers).

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the rover’s Mastcam.

For more information about Curiosity, go to:

http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.

 

The Swirling Sea Ice of the Arctic

Sea water off the east coast of Greenland. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.

Sea water off the east coast of Greenland looked a bit like marbled paper in October 2012. The shifting swirls of white were sea ice, as observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on October 17, 2012. In fact, this ice moved discernibly between October 16 and October 17.Thin, free-drifting ice moves very easily with winds and currents.

Each year, Arctic sea ice grows through the winter, reaching its maximum extent around March. It then melts through the summer, reaching its minimum in September. By October, Arctic waters start freezing again. However, the ice in the image above is more likely a remnant of old ice that migrated down to the coast of Greenland. Sea water is unlikely to start freezing this far south in October.

Along Greenland’s east coast, the Fram Strait serves as an expressway for sea ice moving out of the Arctic Ocean. The movement of ice through the strait used to be offset by the growth of ice in the Beaufort Gyre. Until the late 1990s, ice would persist in the gyre for years, growing thicker and more resistant to melt. Since the start of the twenty-first century, however, ice has been less likely to survive its trip through the southern part of the Beaufort Gyre. As a result, less Arctic sea ice has been able to pile up and form multi-year ice.

Graph by Jesse Allen based on modeled ice volume data from the Polar Science Center, University of Washington.

With less thick ice there is less Arctic sea ice volume, something the researchers at the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington have modeled from 1979 to 2012. Their results appear in the graph above. The model indicates that ice volume peaks in March through May of each year and reaches its lowest levels from August through October. But while the seasonal timing of the peaks and valleys has remained consistent since 1979, the total sea ice volume has declined.

The thick blue line is the 1979–2000 average, and the lighter blue bands surrounding it are one and two standard deviations from the median. The lines below the blue line are the calculated sea ice volumes for the years since 2000. All of them fall below the median, and almost all of them fall below two standard deviations.

The drop in sea ice volume is consistent with other observed changes in Arctic sea ice. In terms of sea ice extent, the National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA reported that Arctic sea ice set a record low in September 2012.

 

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Graph by Jesse Allen based on modeled ice volume data from the Polar Science Center, University of Washington. Caption by Michon Scott with information from Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Instrument: 
Aqua – MODIS

New Earthrise Simulation Video released by NASA

Photo capture of Earth rising over the moon from the Apollo 8 spacecraft on Christmas eve, 1968. Credit: Apollo 8 Astronauts.

The photo known as Earthrise is the first color photograph of Earth taken by a person in lunar orbit. Earthrise is the cover photo of TIME’s Great Images of the 20th Century, and is the central photo on the cover of LIFE’s 100 Photographs That Changed the World.

“Earthrise had a profound impact on our attitudes toward our home planet, quickly becoming an icon of the environmental movement,” says Ernie Wright, project lead with the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The visualization clearly shows how Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and crew members William A. Anders and James A. Lovell worked together to photograph the stunning scene as their spacecraft orbited the moon on December 24, 1968. The video allows anyone to virtually ride with the astronauts and experience the awe they felt at the vista in front of them.

The new computer-generated visualization was created using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.

The simulation was funded by the LRO project. Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO will continue to send back lunar data until October 2014, with the possibility of an additional two years. LRO is managed by NASA Goddard for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Bill Steigerwald
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
William.A.Steigerwald@nasa.gov