H-MORRO BAY

Jul 10, 2013 7:07 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

PG&E to study earthquakes

Earthquakes are a fact of life on the Central Coast.

As part of PG&E's ongoing seismic study program, new research from the ocean floor will give scientists a better understanding of offshore fault lines.

Beginning Saturday, research crews will board a ship called the Surveyer and begin dropping the first of four seismic sensors to the sea floor.

"What we're trying to do is better locate and reduce our uncertainty of earthquake locations in the area," said Senior Scientist Marchia McLaren.

The ten year study will use a series of devices strung together by cables. Those cables will relay data back to researchers.

"Each device has six sensors in them. Three of them are very sensitive devices to measure micro earthquakes," said Guralp Project Manager Horst Rademacher. "The titanium encased devices have instruments that measure both large and small earthquakes. As you can see, a simple tap can register a reading."

Because they are on the sea floor for so long, they can take quite a beating.

"These are concrete domes. They weigh about 1.2 tons each," said Rademacher.

The domes protect the devices from damage while also anchoring them to the sand below.

The devices are strung in a half moon shape about three miles off shore at depths of about 140 meters.

Although considered shallow water, the new research will deepen the understanding of the offshore fault lines.

It will take crews six days to install all four devices which will remain on the sea floor for ten years.

Unlike the low frequency and high frequency studies, these devices do not emit sounds into the ocean floor. Instead, project officials say they are completely non-invasive and only listen for the vibrations from earthquakes and relay that data to researchers.

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