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Underwater Data Cables could Moonlight as Earthquake Sensors

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Published on : Jun 15, 2018

The network of cables running on the ocean floor may be useful for more than transmitting digital communication between continents. This maze of fiber-optic cables could serve to detect underwater earthquake, as stated by researchers. The finding is an exciting one, as most seismic stations are on land because of which many oceanic earthquakes remain undetected. Scientists speculate it to be a great step forward to monitor underwater earthquakes by harnessing the fiber optic cables underwater that stretch to more than million kilometers.

New Approach could also help Raise Tsunami Alert

Not only this, earthquake detecting systems could strengthen tsunami alert systems. The higher the number of signals fed into a tsunami warning system, the faster is the alert signal. The use of a telecommunication cable for sensing earthquake involves injecting light from a laser at one end of the optical fiber and monitoring the light that exits at the other end. In the event if seismic wave rattles the cable, the laser light travelling in the cable is distorted. Comparing the injected light beam to the one that exits is used to determine how much light was distorted along the way, for insights into the strength of the seismic wave that brushed the cable.

The aggregation of measurements from several fiber-optic cables can serve to triangulate the point of origin of the seismic tremor. Once the strength of the seismic wave that passes the cable and its origin are determined, the magnitude of the original earthquake can be determined.

A team of researchers tested this new quake-detecting technique on land based as well as submarine fiber-optic cables.