Slope movements seen from new satellite

Slope movements seen from new satellite

April 27, 2015
Head of Communication

Unstable slopes in Kåfjord in Troms County moved about 1 cm in 24 days, radar satellite images processed at Norut show.

Kåfjord Municipality is a part of Norway with a high density of unstable rock slopes. A slope on one of the mountains in this area, Nordnesfjellet, is one of the most closely monitored unstable rock slopes in Norway.

Norut and NGU (the Geological Survey of Norway) have collaborated for many years to develop techniques to use of radar imaging satellites in work involving mapping and monitoring of potential landslide areas.

The new environmental monitoring satellite Sentinel-1, which is part of the EU’s Copernicus Programme, will for the first time enable nationwide landslide mapping.

The Norut researchers are using a technique called radar interferometry (InSAR). By combining two radar images taken from the Sentinel-1 satellite on 30 August and 23 September 2014, the researchers observed that a rock slope had moved about 1 cm in the space of this 24-day period.

Sentinel-1, which was launched on 3 April 2014, passes over the same place on earth every twelfth day. The researchers at Norut have access to a data source that will soon be even better. It is planned during 2016 to launch a sister satellite, Sentinel-1b, which will orbit the same path. That will enable the satellites to supply data from the same area every sixth day. This improved frequency will provide unique opportunities for mapping and monitoring of landslides.

Norut was among the first in the world to produce results from Sentinel-1. The European Space Agency (ESA) clearly appreciates the job Senior Research Scientist Tom Rune Lauknes and his colleagues at Norut are doing with satellite measurements of unstable rock slopes.

Read more on ESA's website: Landslide risk monitoring with Sentinel-1.

Is movement of 1 cm in a month a lot and what are the possible consequences of this?

“We’ll leave these questions for the geologists at NGU and NVE to answer. Our contribution is to process satellite data so that they get the best possible data source to work with,” says Tom Rune Lauknes. 

“It’s also a professional boost for Norut that we are among the first to use the data from Sentinel-1 to present specific results. We were also able to present data on earthquakes only a short while after the satellite was in orbit.” 

Read more

New satellite with Norut technology