Last week, a federal research program installed new earthquake-monitoring equipment around Bethel. The EarthScope Transportable Array project will provide detailed seismic data from across Alaska.
The project will give scientists more understanding of how plate tectonics work to better prepare communities for potential earthquakes down the line.
Max Enders, project manager, said that this is especially important in Alaska, where some of the largest earthquakes ever recorded have occurred. By putting monitors on a grid, they’re able to look at seismic waves from earthquakes that happen all over the world.
“You could compare it to a CAT-scan of the earth using earthquakes, basically,” said Enders.
Enders' team has added several stations around Bethel: a station 10 miles west of Bethel, one 40 miles east, one near Platinum, and another in Mekoryuk.
“We want to avoid any sort of cultural noise, so we don’t want to put them in areas where there’s a lot of people driving by them, for instance, or anything like that,” said Enders. “So, we try to pick locations that are remote as possible.”
The Alaska Earthquake Center and the Volcano Observatory are working in close collaboration with EarthScope because they want the data from these monitoring stations. Enders said that the instruments, located in places where there hasn't been a lot of seismic information in the past, will provide a better picture of what is occurring deep in the earth's crust under Western Alaska.
The EarthScope project started fifteen years ago, beginning with mapping the lower 48. The project’s monitors will be in place until 2020, when EarthScope plans to move its mapping network elsewhere.