InSAR Norway is a prime example of research with significant societal benefits

Sentinel-1 satelitt analyserer jorden.
InSAR Norway uses radar images taken by satellites to monitor subsidence and unstable mountain areas. Illustration: ESA, ATG medialab.

In 2022-2024, the Research Council of Norway conducted an evaluation of natural science research in Norway (EVALNAT). NGU's research was evaluated by an international expert committee, which highlighted its substantial societal relevance. In this context, the InSAR Norway service received particular praise.

Fact box – How InSAR Norway works

InSAR Norway is a map service with nationwide radar measurements of ground movements from satellites, called InSAR.

The method measures movements with millimeter precision, for example, subsidence in cities or movements in unstable mountain areas.

Over time, radar images can be compared to monitor variations in movements.

The density of measurement points varies depending on the surface. It is highest in cities and along infrastructure, as well as in terrain with a lot of bare rock.

Read more in detail about InSAR Norway.

The world's first nationwide InSAR map

In 2018, the InSAR Norway service was launched, showing changes in the earth's surface over the entire mainland Norway. Now, similar use of InSAR technology has spread to large parts of Europe to monitor and detect subsidence, uplift, or movements in, for example, unstable mountain areas.

The Research Council of Norway writes the following in its review of InSAR Norway (PDF):

“After years of intensive research and development efforts, the service was launched in November 2018, thereby providing billions of deformation measurements across Norway. This was the first nationwide InSAR service worldwide to provide free, open, and regularly updated data to all users in society. This is a prime example of how NGU has genuine, societally-relevant impact”.

Although InSAR has been used for many years, NGU continues to research and further develop InSAR as more users utilize the services in new ways and new ideas emerge. The research is ongoing, and the potential for future applications of InSAR is vast.

“Since 2018, we, together with our research partners at NORCE, have continued to improve the algorithms we use to offer the best products to our users each year. In the coming years, we will introduce new products and services and improve the reliability of existing products. Later this year, we will gain access to data from NISAR, a US/Indian (NASA/ISRO) satellite, which has a different wavelength. This will provide us with more detailed signals from areas with dense vegetation and landslide risk in Norway, which is a current challenge”, says NGU researcher John Dehls.

Saw what Norway developed and wanted it in Europe

Through the European Ground Motion Service, the EU offers InSAR coverage over almost all of Europe.

“We are proud to have played an important role in the development of the European Ground Motion Service. This service was developed due to demand from EU country members who saw what Norway was doing. Together with NORCE, we led the process of developing the specifications for this service, and we are now participating in its operation”, says Dehls.

Working on InSAR Svalbard

NGU is also working on creating an InSAR service for Svalbard, which is scheduled to be operational in 2025. The service is being developed based on input from the local population and research institutions after meetings with NGU and NORCE in the fall of 2023.

“InSAR Svalbard will allow us to see how landforms are affected by thawing and freezing in a landscape rapidly changing due to climate change”, says NGU researcher Marie Bredal.

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