The Sentinel 1 space mission has made it possible to monitor subsidence, including minuscule ground displacements that were previously ‘unmapped’.
The mission will be focussing primarily on densely populated, low-lying countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands.
Scientists have already been using the new technology, studying the Sentinel 1 A satellite’s radar images to discover where the ground is sinking, where it is rising and where it is stable. Crucially, the images also portray the amount by which it is rising.
A map of the Netherlands’ north east area has been compiled to show exactly where the sinking ground lies by using images from November 2014 until April this year and over two million measurement points.
The majority of the measurements were recorded around constructions and buildings such as dikes.
Currently, the measurements are precise to within a few millimetres, but in the space of just a few years the level of accuracy will be further increased, with almost 1 mm/year across the whole country.
Prior to Sentinel 1 such a high level of accuracy could not be achieved and this new degree of precision will be used for various applications, for example maintaining and constructing effective flood defence systems. This is particularly significant for the Netherlands.
Delft University of Technology spokesperson, Ramon Hanssen, said that for a country like the Netherlands it is crucial to understand the extent of its surface deformation.
Mr Hanssen added that the Sentinel 1 satellite data will help them to maintain and monitor the high standards of safety expected by the Dutch population.
The subsidence map highlights some areas, in particular those close to Groningen and down the west shore of the Ijsselmeer, are currently sinking at a rate of up to 20 mm per year.
It is particularly important to monitor ground deformation in this area as it is a region of gas extraction.