An underwater internet cable from Google was used to record earthquakes

An underwater internet cable from Google was used to record earthquakes

According to a study by the California Institute of Technology, underwater internet networks could thus help to study and predict earthquakes and tsunamis

Submarine cables used to carry internet signals (source: Submarine Cable Map) The huge network of submarine cables carrying the internet signal by traveling millions of bits of data per second could also be used to monitor earthquakes and tsunamis. During a test carried out in 2020, one of Google's fiber optic cables managed to successfully record the earthquakes that occurred in its vicinity. This was made possible by detecting distortions of the light signals traveling within the cable.

According to Zhan Zhongwen, assistant professor of geophysics at the California institute of technology and lead author of the research on Seismic and water waves based on optical polarization on transoceanic cables published in the journal Science, it is possible to find a less expensive system than current sensors to monitor seismic activity under the oceans. "There is already this telecommunication cable infrastructure out there," comments Zhan.

These cables could fill a huge gap in seismic detection systems, which in the majority of cases are located on land. Exploiting a network of cables already laid to detect underwater earthquakes and tsunamis would greatly reduce the costs of installing new sensors and would allow the situation to be monitored.

The innovative approach does not even require a modification on the cables nor does it interfere with their primary purpose. For the simic analysis, the propagation of the light signal that transmits the data inside the cable would be analyzed. If an earthquake occurs in the vicinity of a submarine cable, the shock wave generated by it could shake, bend or twist the cable, changing the orientation of the light waves. From the point of view of data transmission, a small correction is enough to overcome the distortion of the signal, but for seismologists these are fundamental data to understand how an earthquake propagates and what its consequences could be. “We hope this new approach will really give people a better chance of catching those events early on, so they have more time to react,” explains Zhan.

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Internet Earthquakes globalData.fldTopic = "Internet, Earthquakes"

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