Elements: Software - Harnessing the InSAR Data Revolution: GMTSAR Grant


  • The award supports the development of a software tool aimed at lowering the barriers for the use of Interferometric Synthetics Aperture Radar (InSAR) data. Natural processes such as earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and glaciers cause deformation of the surface of the earth that can now be monitored to 10 mm precision globally. These surface measurements provide a new tool for investigating processes in the interior of the Earth. InSAR is a powerful and low-cost way to monitor subsurface magma movement and is especially useful when combined with other tools such as GPS and seismic data. InSAR is also used to understand subsurface fluid movement, such as caused by groundwater withdrawal, geothermal production, or in oil and gas fields. A wide variety of new SAR satellites are currently operating and the US will have an even more capable mission in the near future. These massive data sets need to be transformed into information to promote the progress of science, mitigate natural hazards, and enhance use of underground resources. The software, named GMTSAR will develop robust and sustainable software to take full advantage of the satellite generated data for both science and applications. The main innovation of this project is to develop open and robust software to simplify the InSAR data processing and enable routine processing of thousands of SAR images on state-of-the-art computer facilities. Open distribution of software, and the GMTSAR theoretical basis document provide a foundation for education in the field of space geodesy and ensures availability to a diverse audience. This proposed investigation will use standard software engineering practices to harden the GMTSAR code, improve the geodesy, and make it more accessible to novice and advanced users on a wide array of UNIX platforms. This will be achieved through improved and automated testing, partial redesign and simplification of the work flows, UNAVCO short courses, user feedback, and eventual migration of the code distribution and maintenance to a national facility. Work will be performed by a postdoctoral researcher in collaboration with the GMTSAR and GMT development teams and with assistance from the XSEDE program. The expected outcome is to provide sustainable, open, geodetically-accurate software to move InSAR time series analysis from the intermediate-scale methods published today to large spatial and time scale analyses that are becoming possible using the new data streams. This award by the NSF Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure is jointly supported by the Cross-Cutting Activities Program of the Division of Earth Sciences within the NSF Directorate for Geosciences, and the EarthCube Program jointly sponsored by the NSF Directorate for Geosciences and the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • October 1, 2018 - September 30, 2021

sponsor award ID

  • 1834807