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NASA radar system surveys Napa Valley quake area

29 August 2014

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NASA scientists are planning to conduct an airborne survey of earthquake fault displacements in the Napa Valley area of Northern California, using a sophisticated radar system developed by NASA's Jet propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Pending results of a Thursday afternoon instrument checkout flight, a modified C-20A aircraft from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center carrying JPL's Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) was scheduled to fly a five-hour data-collection mission on Friday, 29 Aug. over the area that experienced a major quake during the pre-dawn hours on Sunday, 24 Aug.

The 6.0-magnitude quake, centred near Napa, was the strongest to occur in the San Francisco Bay Area in a quarter-century. It caused extensive damage and numerous injuries in Napa and nearby areas, although no deaths were reported.

Data from the flight will be compared with data acquired by the UAVSAR on previous missions over the same area to determine if significant displacements have occurred along fault lines. The radar can measure tiny movements of the ground of less than half an inch, or less than a centimetre, from an altitude of almost eight miles above ground.

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Image credit: NASA Armstrong - C-20A research aircraft

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