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NRCAN monitoring Haida Gwaii quake data


NRCAN's sensors are tracking aftershocks happening after the Oct. 27 earthquake struck near Haida Gwaii. Courtesy: Michael Schmidt/NRCAN
NRCAN's sensors are tracking aftershocks happening after the Oct. 27 earthquake struck near Haida Gwaii. Courtesy: Michael Schmidt/NRCAN

Daniel Martins, staff writer

December 3, 2012 — NRCAN dispatched a team of seismologists to install extra motion sensors on Haida Gwaii following a Magnitude 7.7 quake, and they continue to collect data on aftershocks.


Natural Resources Canada is continuing to analyze thousands of aftershocks in the wake of the 7.7 Magnitude earthquake that struck B.C.'s Haida Gwaii Islands a month ago.

A team of seismologists was dispatched to Haida Gwaii to a few days after the Oct. 27 quake to install motion sensors throughout the islands.

Seismologist Alison Bird said when she returned to her offices from Haida Gwaii after two weeks there, she found data on around 20,000 aftershocks.

"So it's extremely busy in terms of the level of seismic activity in that area," she said in an interview late last month, adding: "By having really accurate locations of those aftershocks, you can see what fault plane ruptured."

There are also GPS sensors on the island to check to see if there's been any movement of the Earth's crust, and plans are afoot to mount sensors to the nearby sea floor.

She said monitoring the aftershocks will allow scientists to tell exactly what effect the quake had, and possibly point the way toward where the next may occur.

"It doesn't tell us how big they could be exactly, certainly it doesn't tell us when they occur," Bird adds, as a caveat.

"We're looking at the likelihood that an earthquake of a certain level will happen within a certain period of time."

While earthquake sensors are not new to Haida Gwaii, Bird says it's common for the regional monitoring agency to add extra ones after a major shock.

There is no mandated minimum magnitude that would trigger such a mission, but Bird says NRCAN is considering a system whereby experts are automatically sent if a quake of a certain magnitude hits.

Bird herself spent several weeks on Haida Gwaii, interviewing residents and giving public presentations. Even though the quake caused no real damage or major injuries, she said residents were unsettled nonetheless.

"You're used to the ground beneath your feet being quite solid and stable and not moving, and all of a sudden it's moving quite dramatically," she said. "It's not a routine experience."

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