Quakefinder: A Scalable Data Mining System for Detecting Earthquakes from Space

Paul Stolorz, Christopher Dean

We present an application of novel massively parallel datamining techniques to highly precise inference of important physical processes from remote sensing imagery. Specifically, we have developed and applied a system, Quakefinder, that automatically detects and measures tectonic activity in the earth’s crust by examination of satellite data. We have used Quakefinder to automatically map the direction and magnitude of ground displacements due to the 1992 Landers earthquake in Southern California, over a spatial region of several hundred square kilometers, at a resolution of 10 meters, to a (sub-pixel) precision of 1 meter. This is the first calculation that has ever been able to extract area-mapped information about 2D tectonic processes at this level of detail. We outline the architecture of the Quakefinder system, based upon a combination of techniques drawn from the fields of statistical inference, massively parallel computing and global optimization. We confirm the overall correctness of the procedure by comparison of our results with known locations of targeted faults obtained by careful and time-consuming field measurements. The system also performs knowledge discovery by indicating novel unexplained tectonic activity away from the primary faults that has never before been observed. We conclude by discussing the future potential of this data mining system in the broad context of studying subtle spatio-temporal processes within massive image streams.

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