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Grant, technology combine to help Scripps Institution study seismic activity in oceans

Data from Scripps Oceanography’s ocean bottom seismometers will be integrated into the Project IDA global seismographic network. Photo: Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UCSD
Data from Scripps Oceanography’s ocean bottom seismometers will be integrated into the Project IDA global seismographic network. Photo: Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UCSD

City News Service

New technology and a $1 million grant will allow scientists to fill in gaps in monitoring sea floor seismic activity, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography announced Wednesday.

Up to now, seismic monitors were lowered by ship to the bottom of the ocean and picked up later after data was collected, leaving gaps in the gathering of information. The new system will allow for long-term data collection, according to Scripps.

Information gathered from monitors on the ocean floor will go to surfboard-sized transmitter — called the Wave Glider — on the surface powered by a combination of ocean waves and solar energy. The power system will allow the transmitters, developed by Sunnyvale-based Liquid Robotics, to remain stationary for long periods and send real-time data to researchers.

Combining the Liquid Robotics technology with Scripps Oceanography’s ocean bottom seismometer and global network technologies, this development will provide a means of increasing global coverage not only to seismic observations, but also to a variety of ocean bottom observables in an affordable and sustainable way,’' said Scripps geophysicist Jonathan Berger.

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The system will also be useful for tsunami warnings and research of structures deep in the earth, according to Berger.

We haven’t made progress in getting long-term seismic stations established in the oceans because of the expense, so this project will help us fill in lots of holes in the coverage of the global network,’' he said.

The institution was awarded a $1.02 million grant by the National Science Foundation to fund the project.