An Incomplete Inventory of Suspected Human-Induced Surface Deformation in North...

Semple, A. G., M. Pritchard, and R. Lohman (2017), An Incomplete Inventory of Suspected Human-Induced Surface Deformation in North America Detected by Satellite Interferometric Synthetic-Aperture Radar, doi:10.3390/rs9121296.

We used satellite interferometric synthetic-aperture radar (InSAR) data to document ground deformation across North America suspected to be caused by human activities. We showed that anthropogenic deformation can be measured from space across the continent and thus satellite observations should be collected routinely to characterize this deformation. We included results from the literature as well as new analysis of more than 5000 interferograms from the European Remote Sensing (ERS) satellite, Envisat, the Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS), and other satellites, collectively spanning the period 1992–2015. This compilation, while not complete in terms of spatial or temporal coverage nor uniform in quality over the region, contains 263 different areas of likely anthropogenic ground deformation, including 65 that were previously unreported. The sources can be attributed to groundwater extraction (50%), geothermal sites (6%), hydrocarbon production (20%), mining (21%), and other sources (3%) such as lake level changes driven by human activities and tunneling. In a few areas, the source of deformation is ambiguous. We found at least 80 global positioning system (GPS) stations within 20 km of of these areas that could be contaminated by the anthropogenic deformation. At sites where we performed a full time series analysis, we found a mix of steady and time-variable deformation rates. For example, at the East Mesa Geothermal Field in California, we found an area that changed from subsidence to uplift around 2006, even though publicly available records of pumping and injection showed no change during that time. We illustrate selected non-detections from wastewater injection in Oklahoma and eastern Texas, where we found that the detection threshold with available data is >0.5 cm/yr. This places into doubt previous results claiming detection below this threshold in eastern Texas. However, we found likely injection-induced uplift in a different area of eastern Texas at rates in excess of −2 cm/yr. We encourage others to expand the database in space and time in the supplemental material.

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Earth Surface & Interior Program (ESI)