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Seismic Sensor Detects Intriguing Wave Patterns

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's seismic monitoring station located at the Barro Colorado Island research facility has detected an unusual signal from waves occurring in Lake Gatun.

The sensors recorded a curious type of wave pattern that seemed to recur at an intermediate frequency.

Tsunami Sensor Installation

The scientists at the seismic monitoring station suspected that the intriguing wave pattern could be due to "seiches," or standing waves that commonly occur in enclosed water bodies such as the Panama Canal channel. To confirm this activity, they installed a sensor to detect the water-level along the shore. The unusual signals corresponded to the water level changes in the lake.

In 2006, a seismic sensor was deployed on Barro Colorado Island and is one among the 150 sensors that belong to the Global Seismographic Network of the U.S. Geological Survey. The seismic monitoring station uses highly sensitive broadband seismometers that are capable of detecting earthquakes, ground motion and seismic background noise that occurs at nanometer-scale levels. The sensors also detect the "hum of the Earth" that is caused by the breaking of waves on continental shelves across the globe. They can also detect signals from machinery, boats and other land vehicles.

Better understanding of the seismic background signals would help improve detection of tsunamis and earthquakes in the Caribbean region.

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