While nothing can undo the devastation from the massive tsunami that recently struck in Southeast Asia, lives can be saved in the future if scientists can rapidly characterize the earthquakes that cause tsunami. The quick response of the Global Seismographic Network to the 26 December 2004 Sumatra- Andaman earthquake offers clear opportunities to reduce the amount of time before an emergency response and assistance could be dispatched to a similarly afflicted area in the future.
The 137-station network, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, is managed by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) Consortium and operated by the USGS, the University of California, San Diego, and a number of domestic and international institutions to monitor earthquakes and other seismic activity worldwide. And, according to Jeffrey Park from Yale University and his colleagues, the recent subduction zone rupture that touched off the Asian tsunami was the first full-scale test of the systems technical design goals, set more than 20 years ago. The success of the network will become increasingly apparent as more highly detailed information from the global array is produced and studied, Park writes in an article about the seismographic network and the Sumatran earthquake for the 8 February issue of Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union.
The authors note that with the network now online, and with the planned addition of more seismograph locations into the system, strong seismic events in the future can be continuously monitored in unprecedented detail from the instant when the first signals arrive at monitoring stations. Such direct observations could allow scientists to quickly determine the magnitude of an event and its precise location in near real-time.
Jonathan Lifland | EurekAlert!
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