The team of Scripps Oceanography scientists will use a surfboard-sized Wave Glider from Liquid Robotics to relay real-time seismic data. (Photo: Liquid Robotics)

 Scripps Oceanography scientists will use the surfboard-sized Wave Glider to relay real-time seismic data. (Photo: Liquid Robotics)

California scientists are developing a cutting-edge, deep-ocean seismic system which will give them more information about earthquakes and tsunamis across the globe.

The team from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will develop a potentially transformative system for deploying seafloor seismometers, which will gather vital data – in real-time – for applications ranging from earthquake monitoring, Earth structure and dynamics to tsunami warning systems.

According to the team leader, geophysicist Jonathan Berger, there are no current deep ocean seismic systems capable of  sending crucial data back to shore in real time. Right now, the systems deployed to the bottom of the ocean record data for several months before being retrieved for analysis and study.

Ocean bottom seismometers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Data from these units will be integrated into the Project IDA global seismographic network. (Photo: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego)

Data from ocean bottom seismometers, from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, will be integrated into the Project IDA global seismographic network. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego)

To determine the epicenter of an earthquake, its size and whether or not a tsunami is being generated, Berger says data must be available in real time to be useful.

“When you have a large earthquake, it’s important to quickly estimate the parameters of where it was and how big the seafloor displacement was,” says John Orcutt, one of the team’s co-principal investigators. “In order to do this, you need improved coverage in the ocean. During the recent devastating Japanese earthquake, there were lots of places where there was no coverage, so this effort improves upon that.”

A device called the Wave Glider is an example of the new cutting-edge technology being utilized. Developed by a company called Liquid Robotics, the Wave Glider is an eco-friendly, surfboard-sized, autonomous, unmanned vessel powered by the ocean’s wave energy and solar power.

The new system's data transmission path for sending real-tme seismic data from the seafloor to the ocean surface to shore via satellite. (Photo: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego)

Data transmission path for sending real-time seismic data from the seafloor to the ocean surface to shore via satellite. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego)

It will tow an ocean bottom seismic device to a pre-determined location to be deployed,  free floating down to its operating location.

The Wave Glider will circle around above the seismic device on the ocean’s surface, receiving data transmitted via an acoustic modem. The Wave Glider will transmit the data is receives to a shore station via satellite.

The data will be integrated into the global seismographic network of broadband and very long period seismometers called “Project IDA” (International Deployment of Accelerometers).

The data coordinated through this system has helped scientists better understand earthquakes and Earth’s interior structure for decades.

Berger’s team expects to have the system developed, designed, tested and ready for replication and deployment in about two years.

Dr. Jonathan Berger joins us this weekend on the “Science World” radio program to talk more about how this new, cutting-edge technology will provide the latest, most accurate seismic data possible.

>>>> Listen to the interview here…

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Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include: