WOOSTER, Ohio - The area around the town of Anna in western Ohio isthe second-most active earthquake zone east of the Mississippi River, yetOhio has not had a functioning seismic station since 1992. All that changedthis past weekend when Wooster's Department of Geology began operating anew, long-period seismometer, which will be able to record earthquakes fromaround the world of approximately magnitude six and above on the Richterscale.
During its first few hours of operation, the seismic stationsuccessfully detected a 6.9 to 7.2 earthquake near the Kermadec Islands inthe South Pacific.
According to Robert Varga, an assistant professor of geology who isspearheading the project, the system will directly benefit the education ofWooster's students, provide readily available seismic event information tothe general public and establish the College as a leader in the nascentstatewide effort to assess seismic risk. In addition, since the stationwill be tied through the Internet to other seismic station networks inMichigan and Indiana, it will be an important tool for geologists elsewhere.
As a result of the College's new station, Varga says that "Woosteris a primary source of data in northern Ohio immediately following eitherlocal earthquakes or following earthquakes of public interest elsewhere inthe world. Our station certainly will be invaluable for helping to locateepicenters to earthquakes in the central and northeastern U.S."
By the end of this year, the Ohio Division of Geological Surveyplans to construct a seismic station at Alum Creek State Park in DelawareCounty. When that site joins Wooster as one of only two operatingseismometers in Ohio, geologists will have invaluable data for locating andassessing earthquakes in the state.
Wooster is located close to the Northern Ohio Seismic Zone, one ofthree principal clusters in Ohio. The College's seismometer will be theonly instrument close to this zone and will be much more sensitive to localseismic events. Since the instrument will be linked to the MichSeis Networkin Michigan and the IndiSeis Network in Indiana, Wooster's data will beavailable to seismologists elsewhere and will contribute to the location ofseismogenic faults in Ohio, earthquake recurrence rates and to the generalstudy of seismic risk.
"Earthquakes are fundamental geologic events which deeply affecthuman beings," observed Mark Wilson, professor of geology. "The more weknow about seismic events, the more we can prepare ourselves forearthquakes. With the new instrument, Wooster will be one of a very fewinstitutions collecting seismic information in this relatively unmeteredpart of the world."
The Wooster seismic station also will be a valuable source ofinformation about earthquake activity for both the general public and themedia.
"As a former Californian, I am particularly interested in seismicevents everywhere and am well aware of the high level of public interestsurrounding these events shortly after they happen," said Wooster PresidentR. Stanton Hales, who was instrumental in obtaining a gift to establish the$6,000 seismic station. "I recall the powerful role geologists at Cal Techplayed in the lives of Californians following earthquakes in the state oraround the world. Wooster has an opportunity to play a similar role in Ohioand the Midwest."
Equally important are the instrument's educational possibilities.The operating software, which is being provided free of charge by geologistLarry Ruff at the University of Michigan, will allow students not only tosee the currently plotting seismogram for the Wooster station, but also toaccess files of past events.
"Students will be able to observe seismic arrival times, determinethe type of first motions - related to fault type - and calculate Wooster'sdistance to epicenters," said Varga. "These are all things that we talkabout in lectures, but are much more exciting when experienced in realtime. Because of the considerable numbers of students not majoring ingeology in our courses, the seismic station will greatly increasescientific awareness among the general student body."
During her first oceanography class session following theearthquake, Lori Bettison-Varga, associate professor of geology and actingchair of the department, used the printout from the seismic station in herlecture.
"My students and I were talking about island arcs and subductionzones in class that day," said Bettison-Varga. "A subduction zone is whereone crustal plate descends below the edge of another. I was able to use theinformation from this earthquake as real-time evidence that deepearthquakes occur and that they can tell us about the nature of platemotion."
The seismic station also will provide educational opportunities tostudents in area public schools. Varga intends to involve these students inlearning about earthquakes and their measurements by creating a Woosterseismic station page on the World Wide Web that students will be able touse to learn about the basics of earthquake study and to access thereal-time data recorded by the instrument.
"In essence, these students will be able to use our instrument viathe Web in the same way as our own students in Scovel Hall," said Varga."This should also provide a great opportunity to involve geology majors whoare interested in education careers with in-service training. Interestedmajors could visit local schools to give presentations about earthquakes ingeneral and about the use of the data from the Wooster seismic station andwork with local teachers to develop seismic-related educational exercisesand research projects."
The above story is based on materials provided by The College Of Wooster. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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