LIDAR Illuminating Earthquake Hazards

Visualizing geologic processes is a challenge.  But the payoff in graphics or animations that help geoscientists better understand and communicate how geologic processes operate is beyond measure.  A new video on how scientists use LIDAR to examine young fault systems is a wonderful addition to the Earth sciences cinematic portfolio.

LIDAR Illuminating Earthquake Hazards  ~

LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) involves laser pulses to collect detailed information about the ground surface, providing a much higher resolution image than is normally available; it has the added advantage, too, of seeing through vegetation.  The raw data constitutes a point cloud of millions of data points that are rendered into digital elevation models (DEM) that represent the ground surface at sub-meter resolution.  LIDAR applications range broadly from hydrology to biology, archaeology, meteorology, and geophysics – and that’s just scratching the surface.

Video. The video begins with an earthquake propagation animation on the San Andreas fault system (source, Southern California Earthquake Center), then quickly moves to a freshly trenched fault trace in the Mystic Lake area and discussion on the hazards earthquakes pose to people.  That’s followed up by marvelous 3-D models of California’s major fault systems manufactured using LIDAR data and complemented by a primer on how LIDAR works.

Ken Hudnut (USGS) does an excellent job  describing how LIDAR provided new insight into recent slip events along a section of the San Andreas Fault.

Open Topography ( receives especial attention here as a purveyor of high resolution topographic data and tools.

If you have nine-minutes to spare and an interest in fault systems and how new topographic modeling greatly illuminates subtle ground features, this video is for you.

LIDAR Illuminating Earthquake Hazards

Director ~ Sarah Robinson

Cinematography and Audio ~ Andrew Whitesides

Narrator ~ Michael Ihrig

Michael Conway, 21 January 2011