California could be in for a massive earthquake after a newly discovered structure was discovered in the San Andreas fault line.
Not just conduits for binge-watching Game of Thrones, underground broadband networks could also help detect seismic activity, a new study said.
“Broadband telecommunications networks could be used in the future to locate and assess faults, and fiber-optic cables could be used as an alternative to seismometers,” the study said.
The research was published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Communications.
Traditional seismic networks can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to operate and maintain, but are crucial in earthquake-prone areas, the study said. However, fiber-optic cables used for telecommunications have been proposed as a low-cost method to monitor earthquake activity.
The study was led by Philippe Jousset of the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam. Jousset and his team set up an experiment in Iceland, where fiber-optic cables were transformed into a series of sensors to record both natural and man-made seismic waves.
The scientists found that the cables not only recorded seismic signals, but were also able to detect the surrounding faults and other underground geological structures.
The study concluded that although fiber-optic telecommunication networks may be able to be used in earthquake hazard monitoring, they said more research will be needed.
In an article that accompanied the study, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Elizabeth S. Cochran wrote that “a revolution in seismic detection technology is underway, capturing unprecedented observations of earthquakes and their impacts.”
She said these sensors could give real-time ground-shaking observations that could improve emergency response after damaging earthquakes, and could also advance our understanding of the physics of earthquakes.
“I look forward to a time when smoke detectors and smart gas meters, or even perhaps
millions of toasters, provide records useful for seismology,” Cochran said.
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