Because Berkeley is built right on top of a fault line, and is long overdue for an earthquake it is no big surprise that we hear a lot of talk about seismic activity safety measures and research.

A professor of Earth and Planetary science at UC Berkeley, Douglas Dreger, has been doing lots of research on just that topic (earthquakes, in case you forgot already), identifying how much damage is actually caused by the earthquake itself as opposed to earthquake-like events. Occurrences such as the shudders of a glacier, or the explosion of a nuclear bomb can move mountains though cannot technically be classified as earthquakes.

Dreger uses modern digital broadband seismometers sensitive enough to detect the smallest as well as the most intense movements of the earth. Through a technique called the moment tensor inversion, Dreger can detect true earthquakes from mine implosions, nuclear tests and volcanic eruptions.

The research done has already been applied to help save lives. For example, after examining details from the 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine collapse, which killed six workers, Dreger determined that 80 percent of the energy was actually due to the downward movement of the ceiling. The earthquake itself would have been detected as a magnitude below one. From his investigation, Dreger was able to create an approach to characterize future mining accidents that could refine accident estimations.

We’re no scientists, but hopefully some of this research can be applied to reduce collateral damage in the event of a big earthquake.

Image Source: Seattle Municipal Archives under Creative Commons
What’s really Shaking? [Science Matters]


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