Scotland could be at risk of earthquakes

A first land motion map has been created showing movement across Scotland.

Created using hundreds of satellite radar images of the country, the map covers movement over a two-year period from 2015 to 2017.  

It shows that small but significant rates of land motion are occurring across almost the entire landscape of Scotland, especially in old mining areas, which could even result in minor earthquakes.

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Relative land motion map showing uplift due to groundwater recovery in former underground coal mines of East Lothian (left) against an aerial photograph of the same area (right)

Relative land motion map showing uplift due to groundwater recovery in former underground coal mines of East Lothian (left) against an aerial photograph of the same area (right)

HOW DID THEY DO IT?

Scientists from the University of Nottingham created the map using Intermittent Small Baseline analysis, a satellite remote sensing technique.

The map was produced from radar data (627 images) acquired over two years by the Sentinel-1 satellite mission, which is part of the European Union’s Copernicus programme.

Sentinel-1 data was downloaded for free from the European Space Agency website which is collecting data every six days and can measure down to the nearest centimetre. 

This technique has been used for a long time in urban areas but was difficult to apply in rural areas as the land changes shape through the seasons. 

Now experts from Geomatic Ventures Limited have managed to filter through these variables and get clear readings of rural subsidence. 

Subsidence is shown on the map by red and yellow colours, with green representing stable ground across the majority of the country. 

The team said such maps could inform regulations around fracking and oil and gas production.

'There are many things that cause the land to move - some are natural and some are man-made', Dr Andy Sowter, chief technology officer of Geomatic Ventures Limited, the company that processed the images, told MailOnline.

'In places like the Scottish midlands they were coal mining for 150 years and that deep coal mining has caused the land to move in a number of ways', Dr Sowter said.

As well as being caused by historical coal mining, this movement is also influenced by subsidence over peat-lands and landslides on steep slopes.

Dr Sowter said there are many reasons why we should be worried about this land motion. 

'In many areas across the UK these mining areas are collapsing and uplifting which causes minor earthquakes and tremors', he said. 

'If these areas are already uplifting and subsiding and causing tremors

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