Crustal Deformation

Map depicting crustal deformation instruments deployed in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Crustal deformation refers to the changing earth’s surface caused by tectonic forces that are accumulated in the crust and then cause earthquakes. So understanding the details of deformation and its effects on faults is important for figuring out which faults are most likely to produce the next earthquake. There are several hypotheses about how this works, but more data is needed to determine which one is the best.

Crustal deformation is a heavily data driven field. To measure the motions of earth’s surface, the USGS employs a variety of methods, including LIDAR, the Global Positioning System (GPS), Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), creepmeters, and alinement arrays. In parts of the U.S. with few or no historically-recorded major earthquakes or where background seismicity is sparse, geodetic data may provide the only insight into present-day seismic hazard. The motions captured by these diverse measurement techniques provide vital information on:

Specific problems of interest include:

See also:

Crustal Deformation Monitoring