State seismologists want to keep seismic measuring system set for removal

Published: Jan. 6, 2019 at 5:14 PM AKST
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A network of seismic stations that helped gather data from the big earthquake on Nov. 30th is scheduled for removal beginning in 2020.

If seismologists and geotechnical engineers from Alaska have anything to say about it, the state will take over control of the instruments instead.

Earthscope, a national partnership of academic and federal scientific communities, installed temporary instruments monitoring seismic activity across the country as part of its Transportable Array project.

The seismic installations began in Alaska around 2014 with 280 installations set up primarily in remote areas that are not easy to access. The instruments are scheduled to be removed beginning in 2020, when funding from the National Science Foundation for the Transportable Array will dry up.

John Thornley is a Geotechnical Engineer with Golder Associates, he says the data the seismic network provided in the aftermath of the last big earthquake has state seismologists like Mike West keen to keep the instruments up and running, and for good reason.

"I think this recent earthquake has probably helped that, understanding that having this data in-hand is very valuable for the state,” Thornley said.“I think that even before the earthquake, there were plans to be able to keep some of these stations."

Thornley thinks it’s likely that West will find funding to keep at least some of the instruments in operation, because the future of Alaska depends on having reliable seismic measurements for purposes of development.

"From both the research side and a practitioners side, keeping them in Alaska for as long as possible and keeping as many online as we can, really helps with responsible development of Alaska," Thornley said. But if the state were to acquire the instruments, the challenge would lie in ongoing maintenance of stations in remote areas of the state.