Specialist sensors carried by aeroplanes are being used to take measurements which allow experts to pinpoint areas of land which are changing shape as a result of the earth's plates moving.
A team from Edinburgh University has used the data to investigate how these movements - known as tectonic activity - have impacted on hills in California's San Andreas Fault.
The data shows tectonic activity has shifted land up, down and horizontally at a ridge called Dragon's Back. This of movement is associated with earthquakes.
The hills were measured using what is known as the LiDAR technique, which uses light pulses to gauge distances.
Simon Mudd, from Edinburgh University's School of Geosciences, said: "In tectonically active regions, such growing landscapes are associated with faults so our findings offer the potential of rapid and cost-effective detection of potentially hazardous areas."