Extreme subsidence in a populated city (Mashhad) detected by PSInSAR considering groundwater withdrawal and geotechnical properties.Sci Rep. 2020 Jul 09; 10(1):11357.SR
Ground deformation can cause serious environmental issues such as infrastructure damage, ground compaction, and reducing the ground capacity to store water. Mashhad, as one of the largest and most populated cities in the Middle East, has been suffering from extreme subsidence. In the last decade, some researchers have been interested in measuring land subsidence rates in the Mashhad valley by InSAR techniques. However, most of those studies were based on inaccurate measurements introducing uncertainties in the resulting subsidence rates. These researches used a small number of EnviSat data with long perpendicular and inhomogeneous temporal baseline. This paper seeks to determine the subsidence rate in urban areas of Mashhad in recent years, the threat that was neglected by the city managers and decision-makers. For this purpose, the Persistent Scatterer InSAR technique was applied in the study area using two time-series of descending and ascending Sentinel-1A acquisitions between 2014 and 2017. The results demonstrated the maximum line-of-sight deformation rate of 14.6 cm/year and maximum vertical deformation (subsidence) rate about 19.1 cm/year which could have irreversible consequences. The results were assessed and validated using piezometric data, GPS stations, and geotechnical properties. This assessment confirms that the main reason for subsidence in the interested area is groundwater over-extraction. Also, investigation of geotechnical properties shows that thick fine-grained layers in the northwest of the city could strongly affect the results. At the end of this paper, a new simplified method was proposed to estimate specific storage in special cases to predict the subsidence rate.