Earth and Planetary Science
EPS Atmosphere, Oceans, and Climate

Underwater fiber-optic cables could moonlight as earthquake sensors

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

FROM SCIENCENEWS.ORG, BY Maria Temming, JUNE 14, 2018

 The global network of seafloor cables may be good for more than ferrying digital communication between continents. These fiber-optic cables could also serve as underwater earthquake detectors, researchers report online June 14 in Science.

“It’s a very exciting proposition,” says Barbara Romanowicz, a seismologist at the University of California, Berkeley and the Collège de France in Paris.

Almost all seismic stations around the world are based on land, leaving many oceanic earthquakes undetected. Harnessing the million-plus kilometers of underwater fiber-optic cables to monitor seafloor earthquakes would be “a great step forward” for studying Earth’s interior, Romanowicz says.

What’s more, quake-detecting cables could bolster tsunami alert systems. “The more [seismic] stations feeding into a tsunami warning system, the faster it can give a warning,” says study coauthor Richard Luckett, a seismologist at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh.