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USGS Installs Seismic Sensors to Detect Earth’s Movements

The US Geological Survey (USGS) has roped in five universities to deploy more than 6000 seismic sensors in classrooms and civilian homes for detecting movements from the earth.

The UC Berkeley is one of the five universities to participate in this project. Community members who belong to the Quake-Catcher Network could volunteer to have sensors installed and thus help seismologists to track the earth’s movements. On 9th and 10th July, 2011 the first batch of the sensors were distributed all over the Bay Area.

Elizabeth Cochran, who is a USGS research geophysicist, stated that these sensors would provide a denser record of seismic data and allow researchers to follow the movements in the ground after an earthquake, from many more locations. The network’s website reveals that either the sensor could be purchased by paying $49 or residents could host one for free if they resided in the specific regions, which are being studied.

The sensor should be plugged into the USB port of a computer and then firmly attached to the ground so that false triggers could be averted. A software that would monitor the sensor and relay back the data to Stanford University should then be downloaded by the user. Cochran revealed that whenever there is a significant shaking such as when there is an earthquake or when the user kicks the sensor, the signal is sent to the server in Stanford.

According to Peggy Hellweg, who is a research seismologist at UC Berkeley, campus students have been invited to learn how to deploy sensors and also volunteer to host them.

Cochran expects that they would get a lot of positive response here just like a similar program conducted in New Zealand. Eventually Cochran along with her fellow researchers plan to install the sensors all over the Bay Area, especially close to the San Andreas, Hayward and Rodgers Creek faults, after which they would proceed to install all over the US, inclusive of Alaska and California targeting all areas with relatively high seismic risk levels.

The origin of an earthquake could be pinpointed speedily through these sensors if they originate in one of these areas. This would help seismologists get the information from the surrounding cities more rapidly. Furthermore, they would be able to detect variations in the ground movements to recognize which type of materials underwent or experienced the maximum shaking.

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