In the past, environmental scientists have been limited to “on-the-ground” observation to monitor subtle and not-so-subtle changes. CSTARS satellite monitoring enables scientists to view “the big picture” by offering a star’s-eye view. Earthquakes, water level management, hurricanes, ocean waves, subsidence and volcano monitoring are all applications of the satellite imagery collected by the facility. And, with the help of CSTARS images and InSAR techniques, more subtle, but valuable parameters like topographical elevation, tectonic movement, wave amplitude and speed can also be measured. As one of the world’s premier remote sensing facilities, data garnered from CSTARS images are helping researchers monitor the world and gain important insights into Earth’s natural and human caused phenomena.
Higher spatial resolution satellite measurements such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) are more suitable to monitoring and assessing natural hazards because of its sensitivity to change detection due to their “all weather” capability and the day/night access of the sensors. Natural hazards and events of most concern to Florida are oil slicks and using SAR is especially useful in the enforcement of pollution laws because SAR can constantly monitor potential violations — a critical capability, as most large oil spills at sea occur as a result of severe weather. Oil slick tracking is also of great importance in the containment of oil spills. Winds derived from SAR can provide local wind conditions for use in oil spill trajectory models. SAR images reveal areas inundated by rising floodwaters and are critical in support of disaster response efforts. Such images can be used for rapid damage assessment during and immediately after a flood, when clouds may still obscure the area. The inundation patterns recorded by SAR can assist in quantitative damage assessment and mitigation planning. SAR images can also provide rapid damage assessment after major hurricanes, when cloud cover and damaged infrastructure (i.e., telephones, roads, bridges) make conventional surveys difficult.