SEATTLE - Using airplane mounted radar and infrared cameras, researchers at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Lab are creating images and data of the Oso slide area. And it's information available to anybody who needs it, from agencies studying how the landslide happened to those working on recovery of victims.
"One of the things we're looking at, and one of the root causes of the landslide, is, how much water was in the soil at the time," said Chris Chickadel, an oceanographer with a specialty in marine geology.
Chickadel used the infrared cameras to monitor currents off the coast by measuring the changes in temperature the cameras pick up. Those same cameras can tell things about the Stilliguamish River and the ponds and backwaters in the slide zone.
On the infrared image, the cold river shows up black, but warmer ponds heated by the sun show up a lighter gray. They can also see the groundwater and saturation levels.
The first flight was made on the Thursday after the landslide hit on Saturday, March 22. The second flight was made last Monday. They would like to fly more, but getting permission to enter the zone above the slide has been difficult.
"We're hoping to see settling in the ground," said engineer Gordon Farquharson, who goes up on the flights that have crossed over the area well above 2,000 feet.
Farquharson has been largely involved with the radar that can take pictures of the area in wide swaths of terrain around two miles wide.
"It struck home just how bad this slide was, and how bad it looked," said Farquharson.