Scientists, educators, policy makers, and members of the public
are working together to collect data from instruments that measure motions of
the Earth's surface.
Senior research geologist Ron McDowell from the WV Geologic
and Economic Survey recently attended a meeting to learn more about the effort.
“The whole thing is to take an approach to try and get as
much information about our part of North America as
possible as far as earthquakes, details n the crust, on volcanic activity,
details on fluids in the crust. A lot of experiments are going on and the
EarthScope part of it is just one small part,” McDowell explains.
In 2004, EarthScope began installing small seismic stations on
a grid across the continental US, and since then they’ve been systematically moving
the array across the country from west to east.
Thirteen or 14 stations will be installed in WV this summer. The
stations remain in given locations for two years. EarthScope is looking for land owners in specific areas across the state who would be willing to participate.
“They are pretty much self-contained once they’re in the
ground,” McDowell says. “You don’t do much more to them. Someone may come out
and change batteries every once in a while, but they send data through satellite
phone or by internet connection and the EarthScope people take care of all of
EarthScope is responsible for the security and operation of
the station, assumes all liability for damaged or stolen equipments, removes
all equipment after the experiment, and provides the landowner project updates
and sample recordings from their station.
Installation takes about three days. First a 6 foot hole is
dug four feet wide. A plastic tank is placed in the hole and cement is poured
into the bottom to create a sealed container. On the second day seismograph
electronics, sensor, and communication equipment are installed. The third day
is for testing and to recondition the landscape.
McDowell says new funding from the National Science
Foundation will allow for two of these stations to be left behind permanently.
“In addition to that, the WVGES is looking to invest in two
additional stations,” McDowell says. “So if things work out, we’ll have the seismic
station that already exists here in Morgantown,
and 4 additional stations as well.”
McDowell says the stations will be equipped to detect seismic
movement from across the globe. He says the data these instruments provide is
very useful since our current understanding the crust beneath the state and
region is very limited.
“One of the questions I got regarding the earthquake that
happened in Virginia, ‘Why are we
feeling it on this side of the Appalachians?’ Well it
has to do with how that energy gets transmitted through the crust,” McDowell
“We know it gets transmitted, but the crust under basically every
portion of North America is a little different. Getting
more information as large earthquakes get detected from within the state is
going to tell us more about what that crust is really like that we’re sitting
on top of.”
McDowell says the WV Geologic and Economic Survey is also
looking to invest in a smaller, portable array of seismic monitors that can be
used to gauge various areas in the state more specifically.