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The InSAR lab was established in 2003 with a research grant from NASA titled "Development and Transfer of InSAR and GPS Applications to Local Government in Nevada: Groundwater Management and Subsidence Mitigation"

Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) Research Grant 13-02017

InSAR Laboratory







What is InSAR?

Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) is a rapidly evolving remote sensing technology that uses C-band (5.6 cm wavelength) satellite radar data collected since 1992 to measure sub-centimeter-scale ground movement, most commonly in surface deformation studies related to earthquakes, volcanoes, and groundwater-related land subsidence.

Two radar scenes each covering about 10,000 km2 and taken at different times are closely compared for small changes in radar phase of the waves reflected from fixed objects that have moved on the ground. The small shifts in radar phase can be measured with a pixel resolution of about 10 m, allowing deformation patterns to be detected over large regions with a high degree of spatial detail.

InSAR lab research facilities

The lab is equipped with a full range of computing hardware and software dedicated exclusively to InSAR processing, including multiple Linux, Unix, and PC workstation platforms. The lab can routinely process InSAR data using any of three software packages: DIAPASON developed by the French Space Agency (CNES); ROI_PAC developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL); and GAMMA developed by Gamma Remote Sensing.


John W. Bell, Research Professor (email
Ron Hess, Geospatial Data Specialist
Kurt Katzenstein, Ph.D. student
Edmund Baffoe-Twum, M.S. student


Falk Amelung
Noel Gourmelen
RSMAS, University of Miami

Alessandro Ferretti
Tele-Rilevamento Europa, Milano, Italy

Gary Oppliger
DGS, University of Nevada, Reno


click image to enlarge
Frenchman Flat Unwrapped interferogram for period Feb 1998
to Feb 1999 showing deformation (subsidence)
associated with the 1999 Frenchman
Flat earthquake (M 4.8), Nevada Test Site

click image to enlarge
Northwest bowl and at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas Valley
Wrapped interferogram of Las Vegas Valley
for period Jan 2003 to Jan 2004 showing subsidence
in the Northwest bowl and at Nellis AFB and
uplift due to artificial recharge


click image to enlarge
Cortez-Pipeline Gold mine, Crescent Valley
Wrapped interferogram of Crescent Valley
for the period Sept 1996 to May 1999 showing
subsidence associated with open-pit
de-watering at the Cortez-Pipeline Gold Mine

Current Projects

  • Subsidence and earth fissuring due to heavy pumping in Pahrump Valley
  • Aquifer system response to heavy pumping on municipal wells in the Virgin Valley (Mesquite)
  • Reconnaissance InSAR study of eastern Nevada groundwater basins designated for potential groundwater export to Las Vegas Valley
  • Hydrostratigraphy and InSAR study of the Kelly Creek Basin-Pumpernickel Valley area, funded by Newmont Gold Mining Corporation
  • InSAR study of the aquifer system response to mine de-watering in the Boulder Valley area, funded by Barrick Goldstrike Mining Corporation
  • InSAR study of subsidence and earthquakes in the Yucca Mountain-Amargosa Valley-Ash Meadows-Death Valley region
  • Earthquakes and groundwater subsidence detected by InSAR in the Reno-Carson City-Lake Tahoe area, funded by the US Geological Survey Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program