Unearthing Faults: Locating Unknown Faults in Southern California using NASA Earth Observations

EarthzineDEVELOP Summer 2013 VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Original

Interferometric image showing displacement in the Imperial Valley region of Southern California near the Mexican border due to the April 4, 2010, El Mayor-Cucapah Earthquake in Baja California.

Team Location: Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California


Magali Barba (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)

Christine Rains (California State University, Northridge)

Wesley von Dassow (Lafayette College)


Benjamin Holt (JPL/Caltech)

Maggi Glasscoe (JPL/Caltech)

Jay Parker (JPL/Caltech)


During the summer of 2013, the California Disasters team in the NASA DEVELOP program used data from the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) project to look for previously unknown faults. These faults revealed themselves through coseismic motion during quakes of magnitude greater than 5 along large faults in close proximity to the small faults. Knowing the location and parameters of current active faults is essential to earthquake hazard assessment. Common methods for locating and studying active faults include field mapping and geophysical imaging. Interferometry allows large areas to be surveyed with the least environmental impact and little-to-no manpower. Currently, interferograms are manually inspected to locate faults. To automate and quicken the process, a fault edge detection code was developed. The team optimized the edge detection code by testing it on UAVSAR interferograms and synthetic interferograms. The faults discovered were integrated into a fault database that will be used to improve future earthquake hazard assessment.åÊ The edge detection code, known as the Previously Unidentified Fault Finder (PUFF) tool, also was integrated into Earthquake Data Enhanced Cyber Infrastructure for Disaster Evaluation and Response (E-DECIDER), a collaborative effort among the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey, Indiana University, and the University of California, Davis, to provide decision support for earthquake preparation and disaster management. Through E-DECIDER, researchers and earthquake disaster response teams will be able to use PUFF to examine the details of ground and fault motions due to moderate to large earthquakes and their aftershocks.

Return to the Summer 2013 VPS page.