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Earth Sciences

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Solid Earth
Solid Earth

Solid earth studies at JPL involve a wide cross-section of researchers that specialize in remote sensing, topography, geodesy, geosciences, volcanology, hazard prediction. All of these research activities are supported by lab studies, models, and, in some cases, space-borne observational instruments.

The solid earth research focuses on research in six basic areas:

  • deep crustal and mantle processes
  • remote sensing of the Earth's surface using radar and hyperspectral imaging
  • near surface topography and interdisciplinary studies of geomorphological processes
  • cryosphere/hydrosphere/solid earth gravity and mass changes
  • the study of crustal faulting, subsidence and volcano deformation using advanced InSAR imaging methods
  • understanding the role of the solid earth in monitoring sea level changes

Support for the group is primarily provided by the Solid Earth and Natural Hazards focus area of NASAs Science Mission Directorates.

Selected Research Efforts

Geoscience and Geodesy

NASA technical advances are allowing scientists to investigate a range of geoscience phenomena from space using geodesy, which is the practice of determining the exact position of places on Earth’s surface and Earth’s shape, tidal displacements, rotation, and gravity field:

  • Plate motions, plate boundary zone deformation, tectonics
  • Interseismic strain and stress accumulation, fault slip rates
  • Earthquakes, co-seismic displacements, post-seismic transients, possible precursors
  • Mountain and rift building
  • Coastal subsidence and inundation
  • Volcano inflation and deflation
  • Deformations associated with ongoing and past changes in the cryopshere and hydrosphere
quake image
Observation of May 12, 2008 Sichuan M 7.9 earthquake with ALOS PALSAR interferometry (InSAR)

Scientists in the area have special expertise in radar remote sensing of planetary surfaces and radar and spectral mapping of archeological sites. Other researchers employ forward modeling and inversion methodologies for analysis of geophysical data, including earthquake focal mechanism data, co-seismic, post-seismic and inter-seismic strain measurements. Members of the group include Project Scientists for the recent Shuttle Radar Topographic Mapping (SRTM) mission and Science Team Menbers for the ASTER instrument aboard the TERRA satellite and the GRACE gravity mission.

The group has expertise in mapping properties of the Earths surface, as well as mapping deformations associated with both active and passive volcanoes.

Natural Hazard Evaluation and Prediction

Several researchers at JPL have participated and collaborated with the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) and Earthscope (a consortium of universities, private industry and government agencies dedicated to studying the deformation and kinematics of the Earths lithosphere in western North America). Additionally, the DESDynI concept at JPL would be an InSAR and LIDAR mission dedicated to studying the likelihood of phenomena such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides.


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