Assistant professor Sean M. Buckley and his students are using new satellite remote sensing techniques to provide scientists and urban planners with unprecedented spatial images of earth-surface movement over time.

Satellite interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) has revolutionized the natural sciences over the past decade. The technique utilizes pairs of satellite radar images separated in time to measure any ground motion that may have occurred. Armed with InSAR measurements of centimeter to meter-level surface movement associated with earthquakes, volcanoes and glaciers, scientists are developing new insights into natural land processes.

Professor Buckley focuses on the use of InSAR to measure ground motion associated with human activities. For example, his group has observed several centimeters of subsidence, or sinking of the ground, across the Central Arizona Project canal in Phoenix (see figure). The results are being used to refine groundwater pumping strategies and to help mitigate future infrastructure damage.

Professor Buckley’s group has several deformation study sites throughout Texas and beyond. The likely causes of deformation range from mineral mining to oil, gas and ground water pumping. They have even measured ground motion associated with previous underground nuclear tests in China. The work has garnered broad interest and is supported by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration and the State of Arizona.