UI researchers use satellite data and GPS to examine earthquakes


A satellite radar image of a 2012 earthquake in California. The rainbow patterns indicates areas where the earthquake deformed the earth’s surface (European Space Agency/Iowa Now)

Nick Fetty | March 26, 2015

Researchers at the University of Iowa teamed up with the United States Geological Survey to study ways that satellite data and GPS can be used to better respond to earthquakes within 24 hours of them happening.

William Barnhart – an assistant professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences – along with a team of researchers created a three-dimensional map using GPS and satellite measurements to study how the ground was impacted by a 6.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred in South Napa, California on August 24, 2014. The map did not use typical instruments such as seismometers which often cannot offer the same level of detail as Barnhart’s method.

“By having the 3D knowledge of the earthquake itself, we can make predictions of the ground shaking, without instruments to record that ground shaking, and then can make estimates of what the human and infrastructure impacts will be— in terms of both fatalities and dollars,” Barnhart said in an interview with Iowa Now.

Barnhart and his team’s research can be especially beneficial for improving response times in countries in the developing world, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives. The use of satellite technology allows researchers to study the aftermath of earthquakes without needing to travel to disaster area.

The study – entitled “Geodetic Constraints on the 2014 M 6.0 South Napa Earthquake” – was published in the March/April edition of Seismological Research Letters.

USGS study finds waterways have high levels of neonicotinoid in Iowa, Midwest


Nick Fetty | July 24, 2014
The Raccoon River near Water Works Park in Des Moines. Photo by Carl Wycoff; Flickr
The Raccoon River near Water Works Park in Des Moines.
Photo by Carl Wycoff; Flickr

A new study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) finds that waterways in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest are experiencing particularly high levels of an insecticide known as neonicotinoid.

Farmers and gardeners use neonicotinoids – or neonics – because their effectiveness against a whole range of pests. However, the insecticide has been linked to decreased bee populations as well as a fall in the number of certain prairie bird species.

Neonics – which are chemically similar to nicotine – disolve in water quickly which means they’re susceptible to running off fields and polluting rivers, streams, and other waterways. A 2013 Dutch report found that imidacloprid – one of the chemicals in neonicotinoid – had harmful effects on “a wide range of non-target species.” Similarly, a 2014 Canadian study found neonics to be detrimental on wetland ecosystems.

The use of clothianidin – another chemical found in neonicotinoid – on corn in Iowa nearly doubled from 2011 to 2013. In 2013 the Iowa DNR released a 114-page report examining polluted waterways throughout the state.