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Frequently Asked Questions:

United Kingdom Deformation Map

Satellite Data:

Anchor 1

What satellite data was used?

SAR images from the Sentinel-1 satellite mission, which is part of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation Programme:

What sensor was used?

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)

What Sentinel-1 product was used?

The Interferometric Wide product

How many Sentinel-1 image frames were used?

26 image frames from 6 satellite tracks were used to cover the whole of the UK


How many images were processed per frame?

Around 85 images were processed per frame

How many images were used in total?

More than 2000 Sentinel-1 images were processed, some 8 Terabytes of data

Where did you get the satellite images from?

All images were downloaded for free over a standard internet connection from the Copernicus Open Access Hub.


What is the period covered by the images?

October 2015 – October 2017

Anchor 2

Data Processing:

How was the data processed?


The data was processed using GVL’s in-house interferometric SAR (InSAR) processing software, PUNNET.  Using this software, we can generate values of average motion from a large stack of satellite SAR acquisitions

Is the entire set of Sentinel-1 data processed all-at-once?

No.  The data is processed frame-by-frame and the results are mosaicked together at the end of the process

Why do you need so many images per frame?

To achieve the best accuracy and to minimise the effects of errors, such as atmospheric delay, as many images as possible should be used

Can fewer images be used?

In theory, we can use as few as thirty images but the quality and coverage of the results, especially in vegetated areas, will be affected

Are enough images available over my country/region/site for an ISBAS survey?

Yes.  Sentinel-1 data is being gathered world-wide and there is now a sufficient archive to survey just about anywhere in every continent.  This may not be the case with other satellite missions


What hardware was used for the processing?


A multi-core Windows PC with 128GB RAM and using 6x1TB SSD drives

Is the processing manually intensive?


No, it is almost wholly automated.  The processing was performed by just two operators

How long did the processing take?


The processing was done during company downtime and was completed over a period of eight weeks

What orbital and temporal baseline thresholds were applied to the InSAR processing?


The perpendicular orbital baseline threshold was 75m and the temporal baseline threshold was 365 days

How many differential interferograms were generated?


In total, around 1750 differential interferograms were generated per frame, meaning that approximately 45,000 interferograms were analysed in total across the UK

Can I get a copy of the PUNNET software?



Is the ISBAS method published?

No.  It is Patent Pending


Who owns the IP to the ISBAS method?


The University of Nottingham, who have granted an exclusive license to GVL

How can I get an ISBAS survey done of my area?


Please contact GVL who would be happy to provide details:


What is done about layover and shadow areas?


Layover and shadow masks are calculated from the image and satellite geometry and are excluded from the survey


I thought InSAR only worked over urban and rocky areas.  How do you get results over vegetated and rural terrain?

We use the unique Intermittent Small Baseline Subset (ISBAS) method which can provide results over such areas through the use of an advanced coherence analysis technique


There appear to be ISBAS results in forested areas.  How is this possible?


It is well-documented that C-band radar backscatter contains a component from the forest floor and that this component has high coherence, as opposed to the backscatter from the forest canopy which has low coherence.  Using a coherence analysis, the ISBAS method can identify those pixels dominated by backscatter from the forest floor and accumulate these results to obtain near-continuous coverage of ground motion in these areas

Has the ISBAS method been validated?


Yes.  See our list of peer-reviewed publications

Can I read some peer-reviewed papers on the ISBAS method?

Yes.  See our list of peer-reviewed publications


Do you use an absolute reference, such as a GPS station or a surveyed corner reflector?

No reference points are used

Anchor 3

About the Product:

What do the pixels mean?

Each pixel contains measurements of relative average motion over the period covered by the data, in millimetres per year.  Values are projected in the vertical (up/down) direction.  Negative values are down; positive values are up

What do you mean ‘projected in the vertical (up/down) direction’?

SAR sensors look from the side, not from the vertical, direction.  Therefore, vertical motion is often underestimated, so we have corrected for this


Is all motion in the vertical (up/down) direction?

No.  Landslides are good example of this.  Landslides on west-facing slopes will appear to be going up and those on east-facing slopes will appear to be going down (see figure below).  In fact, any slippage in the east-west direction, rather than up-down, will have the same effect.  This is an unfortunate consequence of the geometry

What do you mean by ‘average motion’?

This is the average rate at which the land surface has moved, over the two-year period of observation

Can this method detect very large rates of motion?

The detection of high rates of motion can be limited by the wavelength of the radar, which in this case is only 5.6cm long.  This means that it is excellent at measuring rates of only a few centimetres per year and less.  With any InSAR technique, higher rates are only confidently detectable in exceptional circumstances, such as in large urban or arid areas where the phase quality is very high


What can cause the land surface to move?

In the UK, the main causes are changes in groundwater levels, underground mining, landslides, surface erosion (such as in open-cast mines) and soil compression (such as in drained peatlands)


What do you mean by ‘relative average motion’?

No absolute referencing is used.  We have therefore used arbitrary referencing over areas we expect to be stable, such as urban areas, such that rates of motion should be correct.  However, the ‘relative’ motion between two adjacent areas is always correct

How big an area is covered by a pixel?

Approximately 90m x 90m

What is the spacing between pixels?


What is the accuracy?

Standard errors are typically of the order of 2mm/year

Why is an absolute reference, such as from an array of GPS stations, not used?

An absolute reference would not alter the relative motion but may add other confusing effects such as continental drift or GIA.  These effects are, however, well-known and could be added from third party sources if required


Can I see the effect of Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (GIA) across the UK?

No.  In the UK, the effect of GIA shows a general trend in uplift roughly of the order of 3-5mm/year from southern England to parts of central Scotland, some 600km away.  Therefore, the relative effect of GIA in any one image frame would be less than 1mm/year which is essentially undetectable or cannot be distinguished from other error sources.


There are a lot of low level patterns of motion across the entire survey, in rural areas.  What are they?

We have noticed that most of these patterns are correlated to land use and soil types and cannot simply be dismissed as atmospheric effects or random noise.  This is the subject of on-going research


Are there any errors?

Yes, there are many potential errors relating to things like increased noise in rural areas and phase unwrapping errors at the extremities of a frame or shoreline. However, we try to minimize the occurrence of errors by rigorously inspecting every frame and checking that most of the deformation detected makes sense or corresponds with expectations through discussions with experts in geology, mining, environmental science and engineering

Could other products be provided, such as total subsidence over a given period?

Yes.  If you are interested in any similar types of product or format, or are interested in surveying a different location, please contact GVL to discuss

The background map appears out-of-date.  Why is this?

The background satellite image, roads and labels are provided by the host GIS service provider for display purposes only.  These are usually based upon Open Source data (such as Google and Bing maps) and may not be aligned with the dates of our survey.  This is entirely out of the control of GVL

Anchor 4


From this survey, what appears to be the main cause of land motion in the UK?

Water movements in the near surface and underground are the most prevalent cause of land motion

What is the cause of the largest rate of land motion?

The English coal mining areas demonstrate particularly large rates of subsidence and uplift in this survey; there is also a large area of uplift relating to coal mining in Midlothian.  Open cast mines are also easily detected by their intensity

What causes uplift in coal mining areas?

Underground coal mines were pumped of water for decades.  When the mines were abandoned and the pumps switched off, the mines have slowly flooded and we often see a commensurate uplift associated with this


Why do opencast mines look like they are subsiding?

The extraction process in opencast mines causes the surface level to go down, which looks like subsidence

Why do some golf courses appear to be subsiding?

Golf courses often require large volumes of water all year round to maintain the quality of the greens and the tees.  Due to cost, some resort to the use of water from their own wells.  Pumping large volumes of water from underground sources can lead to the compression of water-bearing rocks which may translate to subsidence at the surface


Are there any landslides?

Some landslides can be seen in hilly and mountainous terrain, but this map only shows slow-moving ones.  Sudden, catastrophic landslides cannot be detected in this map


What causes motion in soils?

A low-level of soil erosion in a naturally occurring process on all land.  There are many natural causes such as rainfall and water run-off but human activities such as the tillage of agricultural lands also have a major effect.


What causes uplift in soils?

There is some uplift seen in peatland areas which is usually associated with a rising water table.

My house appears to be in an area of uplift/subsidence.  Should I be worried?

Not necessarily.  All the motion detected in this survey is small (mostly sub-centimetre) and slow moving, at a low-resolution (90m) and extending over large areas.  This means that it is impossible to tell you if your house is affected by this motion, or not


Who should be interested in maps like this?

Operators, planners and regulators in:

  • Onshore Oil and Gas

  • Carbon Capture and Storage

  • Road and Rail Infrastructure

  • Water and Utilities Infrastructure

  • Environmental and Waste Management

  • Mining, both underground and open cast


Are there any climate change applications?

Yes.  Subsiding peatlands are a significant source of greenhouse gases and therefore contribute to the UK’s net budget.  Subsidence in coastal areas also affects flood risk

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