by Celine Gordon & Jeng Hann Chong
Wood & earth pigment watercolor, 2023
Earthquakes release energy stored in the earth’s crust, similar to letting go of a squeezed spring. Despite our technological advances, we still cannot predict the exact time and location of an earthquake. Nonetheless, we can make forecast maps - like weather forecasts - to estimate earthquake potential over a region. One of the ways to improve forecasting is by measuring ground movement from the energy built-up in the crust over time, comparable to identifying which springs are compressed the most (or not).
In this art piece, we present our scientist’s research on Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar where more than hundreds of millions of people reside in this earthquake-prone area. Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) is a remote sensing technique that uses satellite images to detect changes in the Earth's surface. We can track ground movement using satellite images taken over multiple years and show how much ground is moving per year. Overall, this research will improve our understanding of earthquake potential in this region and the potential impacts.
This interactive art piece demonstrates how InSAR works using wood sculptural elements and earth pigment watercolor painting. The two sliding wood panels abstractly represent satellite images taken at different times with dot patterns indicating movement on the Earth’s surface. As you slide the panels together, the dot patterns align to show the average of the two images and point to the areas most prone to earthquakes. These panels overlay a watercolor painting of the research area created from earth pigment paints which were handmade from rocks and minerals foraged here in New Mexico. Through using these earth pigment paints, our goal is to connect our local geology with these broader geological changes affecting earthquake-prone parts of the world.
We hope to instill earthquake awareness in communities everywhere so that we can be better prepared for an earthquake.