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Satellite Provides Trippy Photos of Nappa Valley Quake

Sep 05, 2014 11:42 AM EDT

The European Space Agency's (ESA) fledgling satellite, Sentinal-1A, has recently taken some wild radar images of ruptures caused by northern California's most recent serious earthquake.

The quake, which occurred Aug. 24, was a 6.0-magnitude quake, rocking homes just six miles from Nappa, California's famed wine country.

While this was the largest quake to shake northern California in a quarter of a century, no deaths were reported, according to The New York Times. The US Geological Survey (USGS) expects that the resulting damage may cost the region nearly $1 million in economic losses.

Thankfully, no strong or damaging aftershocks impacted the region.

However, while superficial damage from the quake can be repaired, damages done to the Earth itself may be a bit more serious. That's according to satellite radar imagery of the quake's aftermath, as provided by the ESA's Sentinel-1A in a collaboration with the UK's Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET).

The analysis, which occurred on Aug. 31, used synthetic aperture radar interferometry (SARI) - a technique in which multiple satellite radar images of the same area are combined to detect changes to the Earth's surface.

According to the ESA, "small changes on the ground modify the reflected radar signal and lead to rainbow-colored fringes in the interferogram." And these images are practically tie-dyed.

The images most notably confirmed suspicions that the West Napa Fault system was to blame for this quake. However, prior to such a high magnitude quake, the system had not been deemed particularly hazardous. Thanks to the SARI images, experts now know that that the fault slip continues much further north than the extent of the rupture mapped at the surface.

COMET Director Tim Write was extremely pleased with how this mapping turned out, saying that it is an ideal example of the value of this kind of mapping.

"This successful demonstration of Sentinel-1A marks the beginning of a new era for our ability to map earthquakes from space."

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