Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023
Morocco Earthquake: Satellite Measurements Reveal Ground Movement

Satellite measurements have revealed the extent of ground movement caused by the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco last week. The earthquake hit a rural region in the Atlas Mountains about 47 miles from the city of Marrakech. This area lies on the line between the European and African tectonic plates, making it prone to earthquakes.

Radar measurements made by Europe’s two Sentinel-1 satellites before and after the disaster show how much the two plates shifted during the quake. The upward movement of the surface amounted to a maximum of 6 inches, while in other areas the ground sank by up to 4 inches.

The earthquake caused significant destruction, with entire villages razed and families buried in the rubble of their homes. The satellite images generated from the measurements are helping scientists and rescue teams assess the situation and the risk of subsequent tremors.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), satellites orbiting Earth have the unique ability to provide wide views of affected areas and detailed information. The Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, in particular, carries a radar that can see through clouds and is often used for mapping serious floods. In the case of the Moroccan earthquake, the mission’s value has been to measure how the surface has shifted. This information will be crucial once the immediate crisis is over and restoration can begin.

The two images used to create the visual representation of surface displacement were taken over a week before the earthquake and three days after the disaster. The satellite measurements serve as a valuable tool for understanding the impact of the earthquake and guiding relief efforts.