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Recording Earthquakes on the Sea Floor 55

Roland Piquepaille writes "The vast majority of the earthquakes are located underneath the oceans where they are not recorded because of a lack of instruments. This is why the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has developed a new kind of ocean bottom seismometers (OBSs) to record both small and large earthquakes on the sea floor. Forty of them will be deployed at the beginning of 2007 in an area of the Eastern Pacific Ocean known to have large earthquakes. One goal of this one-year mission is to better understand earthquake processes, but this technology could soon be used to better monitor other parts of the oceans. Read more for additional details and pictures about this new technology."
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Recording Earthquakes on the Sea Floor

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  • Good for fish, now they won't have their little fish houses falling on them during the night.
  • Tsunamis (Score:2, Informative)

    by Life700MB ( 930032 )

    Earthquakes at the bottom of the ocean are known to generate devastating tsunamis [], as the Indian Ocean one on 2004.

    Superb hosting [] 20GB Storage, 1_TB_ bandwidth, ssh, $7.95
  • by keilinw ( 663210 ) * on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:17PM (#14812195) Homepage Journal
    I may be incorrect, but I believe that it is possible to detect seisemic activity from anywhere on the planet provided that the sensors are sensitive enough. With this in mind, detection is one thing, but actually interpreting the data as well as doing something useful with it is another thing. Geolocation with sensitive instruments requires MASSIVE amounts of computational power as well as a very good model of the Earth's transmittance dynamics. technologies which I'm sure certain governments are quite skilled at.

    On the other hand, a massive distributed sensor network would be quite useful as it would be more sensitive and would be able to geo-locate w/o the use of supercomputers!

    Matthew Wong []
    • On the other hand, you might just be detecting your heartbeat if your sensors are that highly tunes. It's hard to say.

      By golly.
    • The fact that earthquakes happen under the ocean is nothing new, we just don't know the overall "scale" of how many or how intense they are. It is recently known that earthquakes are on the rise in more and more places where they have not normally occurred before, and I think we will see (hear? sense? record?) even more occurrences of volcanic and magmatic activity the more we listen to the "gut reactions" of Earth's core so close to the sea floor, an area which, like the article said, usually has

    • While the land based sensors can detect earthquakes deep in the ocean, having a sensor package near the actual event aids in multiple ways - better location of the actual movement - better understanding of what is moving.

      Land based sensors can't give you the detailed information on ocean based earthquakes that you need to further the science of prediction. The article indicates the placement will be in an area know to have pre-cursor (ok spelling stinks) earthquakes, so local sensors could give the kind of
    • People here are very confused about the purpose of OBS. (sorry to pick on you, but yours was the smartest)

      The title "Recording Earthquakes on the Sea Floor" might be less confusing if it was "Earthquake Recording on the Sea Floor". You say you need good Earth models to locate earthquakes. That's true, but the purpose here is the inverse. They are recording earthquakes to improve the Earth models. They drop a set of OBS in an area where they are unsure of the Earths morphology and use the recordings
  • by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:19PM (#14812221) Homepage

    Detecting the earthquake is only half the problem. As with the tsunami in 2004, the earthquake was detected, but there were no solid procedures in place to take action with the data. The information went unused for the most part as researchers were unsure who to call or what to do. Quite sad. []
    • The information went unused for the most part as researchers were unsure who to call or what to do
      The proper alerts were issued, whether governements chose to relay the alerts are a different matter. There is plenty of politics involved, not to mention the "jaws" factor, Don't issue warnings, it'll scare the tourrists" kind of a thing. I mean come on, the whole planet rang like a bell on that one, it was big enough to lift my house 4 inches and I live a half a world away.
  • by Himring ( 646324 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:20PM (#14812226) Homepage Journal
    Good article. This technology should prove useful as we seek to understand the mysterious forces behind plate techtonics. However, scientists claim publicly to need more understanding of earthquakes. Privately, they know they are caused, in large part, by Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks....
  • Stupid Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eightyford ( 893696 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:21PM (#14812238) Homepage
    This is probably a stupid question, but could all of the undersea listening posts that were put in the ocean (to detect nuclear subs) during the cold war be used to detect earthquakes?
    • I don't think that's a stupid question at all. Undersea listening posts are meant to detect weak sound waves generated in the water by submarines, but I'm sure they would also detect the strong sound waves generated in the crust by an earthquake (which generate weak sound waves in the water). They probably wouldn't do it as well as a purpose-built seismometer, but with additional software, and commnunication links to the right places, they could provide some additional detection ability.

      Of course, the

    • Re:Stupid Question (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SEWilco ( 27983 )
      Why are you asking us? A Google search based on the term you used, "undersea listening post earthquakes", and someone else's terminology "naval listening post earthquakes" finds several results which indicate it has been used for that. More precise is "SOSUS earthquakes" [].
  • However, I don't think any amount of reasonable warning would have been enough to evacuate so many people as the Dec. '04 Tsunami. Sure, a great number of people could have made it out but you have to realize also that communication in some of those areas just isn't as fast as it is here - not to mention the crowded, overpopulated would take days to evacuate everyone and unfortunately there just isn't that kind of warning system available.
    • Actually, communication in most cities isn't as good as you assume. Most Telecoms run as close to the line as possible with telecommunications, so a sudden surge in traffic can cause havoc. Best system I ever saw was a hand operated exchange where the operator could connect all the phones to one line so the local cop could alert the whole island at once. This doesn't seem to be implemented in todays infrastructure (in NZ at least (I rang them up and asked them)).
  • 250000 people died from an earthquake on the seafloor and they only getting around to placing these things in 2007...

    goddamn beauracrats

    • They sort of noticed the tsunami earthquake using existing devices. They didn't have gear to detect that a tsunami was created by that earthquake.
  • The summary is summarily wrong, and is a complete misinterpretation of the article. I guess we* can forgive M. Piquepaille, since english probably isn't his native tongue, but the first paragraph of TFA is:

    "Hundreds of earthquakes occur every day around the world, most of them underneath the oceans, while the vast majority of instruments used to record earthquakes are on land. As a result, advances in understanding basic earthquake processes have been limited by the available data."

    While it's true that mos

  • Only time will tell how far this system will be effective in real life crisis. Mel at
  • "Recording earthquakes on the sea floor
    Posted by Roland Piquepaille @ 9:40 am"

    for shame.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    the region they're setting up the array, the east pacific rise (about 4S,104W), is what's known as a spreading center. places are spreading apart from eachother more or less uneventfully.

    there are earthquakes, but due to the nature of the fault they aren't that big--if at all noticable to anything but a machine. the sumatra "tsunami" quake was a subduction zone fault, there was a lot of slippage and a lot of vertical displacement on the ocean floor. comparitively, it was about 10^5 times greater than anythi
  • One hopes the seismometers won't be sensitive to notice the NSA tapping into the undersea fiberoptic cables []!
  • I wrote the code (Score:5, Informative)

    by certsoft ( 442059 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:03PM (#14813116) Homepage
    for the DSP based data acquisition system housed in that orange box shown at id=2509 []

    It's a Kinemetrics/Quanterra model Q330. There is a PC-104 based single board computer that records data to hard disk located in another sphere.

  • WHOI (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Sounds like a bunch of WHOI to me.

    (sound it out... ok, maybe it was only funny to me.)

  • Teh article summary is very misleading. Just using land-based seismometers we are quite capable of detecting and locating pretty much every earthquake that occurs, whether it is on land or under sea. But this isn't really even what the article addresses. The whole point of the article is that up until now under-sea seismic observatories have been limited to either boradband recorders which are very sensitive (but can't accurately record high-intensity shaking) or accelerometers that only detect the stron
  • ... what those pesky "giant lizards [] are up to.
  • any word on when Edenite is going to be invented? It would make subocean research much easier.
  • The US Navy has had the entire North Atlantic and a lot of the Pacific too completely mapped with underwater sonobuoys that are in effect a sensitive grid of networked microphones underwater. The network has been there at least since the 1960's. Its purpose was to detect and track Soviet ballistic and attack submarines. I read that it was very effective - that the Russians could not send a sub out of their northwestern ports into the world without the US knowing which one and where it was. I'd be surprised
  • Well not with US-Style advertising but working.
    Based on a System used by GEOMAR before 2004. [] -en.html []
  • The current nuclear monitoring system run by SAIC picks magnitude four naywhere in the world including the seafloor. It picks up 3.5s anywhere on land. These are about a smallest quakes a person can feel shaking. So the SAIC system picks up ANY quake int he world that could cause damage.

    Of course its better for science to map smaller quakes. The Southern California Triple network is senstive to 1.5 anywhere in its area and in many places goes to fractional magnitude.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling