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Recording earthquakes to understand our risk

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Scientists have been busy over the last month installing 88 portable seismographs across the Raukumara area in Gisborne & Bay of Plenty. Sesismographs are instruments that measure the movement of the ground, such as shaking from an earthquake

The installation of the instruments takes 1-2 hours and involves setting up the sesmimograph recording box and burying a seismometer about 50 cm below the ground.

The sesimographs are powered by a combination of batteries and solar panels making the sites mostly self sufficient. The data is recorded on small disks which are retrieved later for analysis.

Katie Jacobs of GNS says “the instruments are very senstive and will record both local earthquakes, larger global earthquakes, and other vibrations that occur while the instruments are deployed.”

As part of this project, a ship will also produce energy offshore that will be recorded by these instruments onshore. The extra energy produced by the ships will help the scientists fill in information gaps where earthquakes do not occur while the instruments are deployed.

Stuart Henrys of GNS says “Recording all of this will help us build a 3D picture of what is going on beneath the Raukumara penninsula to help us understand more about the Hikurangi plate boundary.”

This work is part of a four-year international research project called Seismogenesis at Hikurangi Integrated Research Experiment (SHIRE). It is one of several large-scale national and international research projects that will be undertaken in the Raukumara area and along the East Coast over the next few years.

Each of these projects has different objectives, but the overaching goal is to better understand the hazard posed by the Hikurangi subduction zone, which lies off the East Coast of the North Island. 

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