Destruction in Morocco

A strong earthquake destroys local communities in western Morocco. The 6.8 magnitude earthquake occurred on September 8, 2023, about 70 kilometers (40 mi) southwest of Marrakesh, at a depth of 26 kilometers (16 mi), shaking homes and causing thousands of deaths and widespread damage.

The damage proxy map shown above is the NASA Earth Observatory version of the map created by the Earth Observatory Singapore-Remote Sensing Laboratory (EOS-RS). The map uses modified Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellite data processed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and with software originally developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech and modified in EOS-RS. It is derived from synthetic aperture radar images taken before (May 26, 2023 to August 30, 2023) and after (September 11, 2023) the earthquake.

To map the landscape, including buildings, the Sentinel-1 radar sends pulses of microwaves toward the Earth’s surface and “listens” for the reflected echoes of those waves. In the map above, EOS-RS damage data is overlaid on a Landsat 9 image and combined with a digital elevation model based on data collected by the shuttle radar topography mission.

Detailed views of the damage proxy map below show damage to the towns of Adassil and Tafghati near the epicenter. Dark red pixels represent areas that are likely to experience significant damage to buildings, homes, and infrastructure or changes to the landscape. Orange and yellow areas sustain moderate or partial damage. Each pixel is about 30 meters wide (about the size of a baseball field).

While urban areas of Marrakesh experienced strong and devastating tremors, the heaviest devastation occurred in small communities in rural and mountainous areas in the High Atlas Mountains. The village of Adasil, which is less than 10 kilometers from the epicenter, suffered widespread damage after being hit by some of the strongest tremors caused by the earthquake. The BBC reported that a large part of Tafght had been reduced to rubble, and that half of the village’s population had died or gone missing.

Initial verification of the damage map was done by comparing it with high-resolution optical images and media reports, according to the Singapore Earth Observatory – Remote Sensing Laboratory. The laboratory warned that although the map can be used as a guide to identifying affected areas, it is less reliable in areas covered by vegetation.

Although large earthquakes have rarely occurred in western Morocco before. In 1960, a devastating 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Morocco near Agadir, causing up to 15,000 casualties. Historical data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) show that as of 2023, no other earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger have been recorded within 500 km of the Agadir event since 1900. Earthquakes of this intensity are most common in the northern part of Morocco near From the Mediterranean Sea, where a magnitude 6.4 earthquake occurred in February 2004 and a magnitude 6.3 earthquake occurred in January 2016, the US Geological Survey indicated in a statement.

NASA’s Applied Earth Science Disaster Program area has been activated in support of the Morocco earthquake. As new information becomes available, the team will publish maps and data products on an open access mapping portal.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Michala Garrison, using modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020) processed by ESA and analyzed by the Earth Observatory Singapore-Remote Sensing Laboratory (EOS-RS) using software originally developed at JPL NASA/Caltech and modified into EOS-RS. The Earth Observatory’s version of the map was based on Landsat data from the USGS and combined with a digital elevation model from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. Adam Voiland’s story.

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