Scientists to Build Earthquake Observatory Inside a Fault

21 July 2002

Earthquakes measuring 6 on the richter scale have occurred roughly every 22 years since 1857 at Parkfield, California, which sits on the San Andreas Fault and which is now the site of a 2km pilot hole drilled by the United States Geological Survey. The researchers want to create the World's first earthquake observatory right down inside the fault. It will be a bit like using a stethoscope down there and listening very carefully. The scientists hope to discovers what forces act on a fault before, during and after an earthquake. They hope to pick up the physical and chemical changes which may happen before an earthquake. If they get funding in the future the team hope to drill a 4km hole to establish a subterranean seismic observatory. Seisometers will measure the force of the earthquake shake. Meters and sensors will measure ground deformation and fluid pressure. It is hoped that this study could allow scientists in the furture to predict when an earthquake could happen. At the moment it is very difficult to predict earthquakes, so this sort of information could reduce the death rate if an area could be evacuated, if there has been prior warning of a potential earthquake before the disaster strikes.


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