Geodetic exploration of ground deformation linked to climate change

Geodetic exploration of ground deformation linked to climate change

Geodetic exploration of ground deformation linked to climate change

Lead Supervisor: Dr Lidong Bie

Location: University of East Anglia, Environmental Sciences

Duration: 6 weeks

Suitable undergraduate degrees: Earth Sciences, Geophysics, Environmental Sciences, Computer science

Project background

Climate change is inducing observable ground deformation worldwide. Coastal erosion and subsidence is associated with rising sea levels, and Norfolk in the UK is experiencing some of the fastest coastal erosion rates in North-West Europe. On a larger scale, permafrost on the Tibetan plateau is thawing due to global warming. These measurable deformation poses threats to infrastructures and habitability. Therefore, close monitoring of the deforming trend is critical for sustainability.

This project aims to familiarise the student with InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar), a geodetic method that utilises satellite data to measure ground deformation. InSAR has been demonstrated as a valuable tool for measuring deformation associated with climate change at various scales. The student will focus on local effects such as ground subsidence and coastal erosion, as well as large-scale phenomena like permafrost degradation.

Initially, the student will utilise pre-processed interferograms to construct deformation time series along the Norfolk coastlines. The student will identify slumping and subsidence deformation, and analyse decorrelation in interferograms potentially linked to cliff collapses. Fieldwork will be conducted to validate sites identified from the InSAR deformation maps.

Subsequently, the student will investigate large-scale permafrost degradation in the eastern Tibetan Plateau. This degradation can expose stored soil carbon, which may act as a positive feedback loop for climatic warming. By analysing ground deformation over time, the student will assess the effects of warming on permafrost in the Tibetan Plateau and evaluate potential carbon release due to permafrost thawing.

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