Predicting a sinkhole before it happens - FOX 35 News Orlando

Predicting a sinkhole before it happens

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

Imagine predicting a sinkhole before it happens.  NASA researchers found a way to do it. This new data may be able to save lives. It started from a radar image taken from a sinkhole that formed in Louisiana 2 years ago.  Researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California took a deeper look.

"After the sinkhole happened in Louisiana, I learned about it, and I looked at the data to see what we can see.  So it was quite a surprise that we can see it [sinkhole]," said radar scientist Cathleen Jones a researcher for NASA.

Her team saw signs that helped them identify sinkholes forming before the surface collapses. They use something that's called InSAR or Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar.  It's heavy duty stuff and not everyone can access it.

"Since I work for an aircraft radar it's kind of expensive and time consuming to deploy," said Jones via Skype. "So it's better to use satellites for that kind of study where you're doing more than a pilot study. And there are satellites that can be used at this time and also the U.S. plans to launch a satellite in the future."

Jones hopes more affordable technology will be developed. She says that'll help save properties and even lives. Jeffrey Bush was killed by a sinkhole that swallowed his Seffner home back in February 2013 and a resort in Clermont collapsed back in August because of a sinkhole.

"I think this is really important and potentially has a big impact," said Jones. "I'm analyzing the data that's been acquired since the sinkhole has formed and we're looking at how the sinkhole is progressing in that area but ultimately I would like to expand the study just for example to Florida or other areas in the south."

Results of the study were published in the February issue of the Journal Geology. If you would like more information you may visit http://uavsar.jpl.nasa.gov/ or http://www.nasa.gov/earth.

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