Chinese and American scientists collaborating in the study of an active seismic fault that produced one of China's most deadly earthquakes say their deployment of an airborne LiDAR system, which uses pulses of laser light to calculate distances and chart terrain features, has helped them produce the most precise topographical measurements ever of the fault zone.
"Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) presents a new approach to build detailed topographic maps effectively," they report. They add that these high-precision three-dimensional models can be used to illustrate not only land surface changes following past quakes, but also features of past ruptures that could point to the possibility of future temblors.
Experts at the State Key Laboratory of Earthquake Dynamics and at the National Earthquake Infrastructure Service in Beijing, working with a colleague at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Pasadena, California, mounted a Leica ALS-60 LiDAR system aboard a Chinese Yun Five aircraft and then began scanning the Haiyuan fault zone in a series of flights over the course of a week. The fault zone is similar to the San Andreas fault in California, which has similarly been scanned and studied as a comparison.
"During the past century," they explain in a new study, "the Haiyuan fault zone produced two great earthquakes: the M 8.5 Haiyuan earthquake in 1920, along the eastern Haiyuan fault, and the M 8.3 Gulang earthquake in 1927."
"The Haiyuan earthquake of 16 December 1920 is one of the largest intra- continental earthquakes ever documented in history," they add, "and ruptured about a 237-kilometer-long ground surface, with a maximum left-lateral slip of 10.2 m, and claimed over 220,000 lives."
In the new study, "Quantitative study of tectonic geomorphology along the Haiyuan fault based on airborne LiDAR," lead scientist Jing Liu and her colleagues at the Earthquake Dynamics Lab, part of the China Earthquake Administration in Beijing, state their experiments with the LiDAR scanning system and related building of a high-resolution topographical model provide "an example of how LiDAR data may be used to improve the study of active faults and the risk assessment of related hazards."
Sections of the 3D digital model generated with the LiDAR data are "intensively analyzed to demonstrate tectonic geomorphic feature identification and displacement measurement," they state. The LiDAR data are also used, for example, to calculate horizontal and vertical coseismic offsets in one section of the fault zone.
LiDAR data can be used to verify measurements made during fieldwork on offsets of tectonic landform features, state co-authors Tao Chen, Pei Zhen Zhang, Jing Liu, Chuan You Li, and Zhi Kun Ren, along with Ken Hudnut at the USGS, who visited the China Earthquake Administration to participate in this study. "The offset landforms are visualized on an office computer workstation easily, and specialized software may be used to obtain fault displacement measurements quantitatively," they explain.
With LiDAR-generated digital models of the topography across fault zones, the "link between fault activity and large earthquakes is better recognized, as well as the potential risk for future earthquake hazards," says the team of scientists.
More precise measurements of the active fault zone made possible by the LiDAR system, and their depiction in sophisticated three-dimensional maps, are helping scientists not only in basic research, but also in terms of calculating the probability of a seismic shock recurring, say the co-authors of the new study, which was published online in the journal Chinese Science Bulletin by Science China Press and Springer-Verlag.
Airborne laser swath mapping helps scientists to virtually remove the vegetation covering from topographical models; this "bare earth" representation provides for more accurate identification of tectonic features and changes following a quake.
A LiDAR airborne scanning system of the Earth's terrain was deployed over the section of the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan that was the epicenter of a Mw7.9 earthquake that struck in May of 2008; LiDAR data were used to map the scale of landslides and ultimately to develop rescue schemes.
In the new study, the Chinese and American scientists say that digital models created using LiDAR data from the Haiyuan fault zone "have a much higher resolution than existing topographic data and most aerial photographs, allowing us to map the locations of fault traces more accurately than ever."
The high level of precision of the digital models constructed with information from the LiDAR laser scans of the topography in this fault zone will encourage future "site-specific fault activity studies," state the scientists.
"In the future," they predict, "we can expect that more and more concepts or models of fault activity would benefit from this unprecedented survey technique."
Along the Haiyuan fault zone in the western Chinese province of Gansu, LiDAR scans and related digital models have already been used to identify 600 channels and other linear geomorphic features slated for more comprehensive analysis.
"The next step is to measure the displacements along the whole Haiyuan fault and analyze the principle of the slip distribution," states the team of scientists, "which would help people better understand the fundamental link between fault activity and large earthquakes and assess potential risk for future earthquake hazards."
In places where slip during past earthquakes was less pronounced, it is possible that future earthquakes could have greater slip in order to accommodate and equalize motions along the fault system. Alternatively, slip may be large repeatedly in some places and small elsewhere. Such variations in slip may help to assess future hazards, so observations of this kind are very important to answer unresolved questions that are central to research on hazards of earthquake fault zones around the world.
The original study, "Quantitative study of tectonic geomorphology along the Haiyuan fault based on airborne LiDAR," was published in the Chinese Science Bulletin by Science China Press and Springer-Verlag.
Reporters and editors seeking to preview this article can obtain the study by contacting Rui An, editorial director at Chinese Science Bulletin, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tao Chen | Eurek Alert!
Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter
17.08.2017 | Swansea University
Climate change: In their old age, trees still accumulate large quantities of carbon
17.08.2017 | Universität Hamburg
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences