Understanding the Nepal Earthquake and Its Effects From Space

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal has killed more than 5,500 people and injured at least 11,000. Now, we’re seeing how the disaster appears from space, with both NASA and the European Space Agency releasing satellite imagery of the event.

Above is an image combining radar imagery from 17th and 29th April, acquired by the ESA’s Sentinel-1A satellite. Known as an interferogram, it shows the difference between land height following the earthquake (which occurred on the 25th) to an accuracy of inches. According to the ESA around 4,600 square miles of land has moved—half up and half, including the region north of Kathmandu, down.

Below is NASA’s map of visible might emitted across the city of Khatmandu, created by its Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) project. By monitoring changes in visible light across the city overnight it’s possible to identify which areas are most badly affected by damage to electrical infrastructure and then target resources accordingly. On the image, warmer colors like orange and red show the biggest reduction in emitted light. These patches seem to correspond to the suburban areas around Kathmandu.


Images like these will help rescue workers to work more effectively on the ground, as well as providing a means for scientists to understand the ‘quake and future events in more detail. [ESA, NASA]