Seismometer station installed on Northwestern campus grounds

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Seismometer station installed on Northwestern campus grounds 26, 2016

 Digging for the Seismometer
Digging the whole for the seismometer station was Dr. Steve Maier (center) along Steve Sneary (right) accompanied by senior and agriculture major Brian Weathers, from Edmond (back left).

Over the winter break, Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s Natural Sciences department installed a seismometer station at the University Farm south of Alva with the help of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to collect earthquake aftershock data.

USGS out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, contacted Dr. Steve Maier, department chair, about a location on campus that would be suitable to install the temporary seismometer station.

“They approached me through an email, and I said yeah, this sounds interesting,” Maier said.

Maier, with 18 years of experience at the university, helped with the installation of the station along with Dr. Steven Thompson, instructor of biology; and Steve Sneary, farm manager and instructor of agriculture. Steve Roberts, USGS field technician took the lead on the installation while Steve Ploetz, USGS field engineer, assisted remotely from New Mexico. Austin Holland, USGS supervisory geophysicist, set up the contract with Northwestern to host the equipment.

“They (USGS) were interested in the Alva area since there is an elevated frequency in the earthquake activity in this immediate area,” Maier said. “They left the specific site up to us to use… In order to make sure it wasn’t tampered with we decided to go off campus but still on property.”

The USGS seismometer station is a temporary installation stay ranging from six months to three years in one place to collect earthquake aftershock data. These units are installed and sponsored by the USGS when an increase in earthquake activity within a well-defined location occurs.

Two instruments were installed: an accelerometer (to measure gross movement) and a broadband seismometer designed to collect high frequency data (very quick vibrations).Each instrument had to be aligned with the Earth’s axis of rotation and each measures movement in three dimensions.

The instrumentation is so sensitive that changes in temperature may be detected as soil expands (as it warms) and contracts (as it cools). The swaying of a nearby Mesonet tower will likely also be detected.The instruments, including the modem and cellular transmitter, are solar powered.The total cost of the equipment is nominally $70,000.
The equipment also will serve as an example of science in the field and a direct application of Earth science. For example, the $25,000 and $15,000 sensors were encased in about $50 worth of handmade PVC supplies and hardware so that they could be weatherproofed and placed in the ground.

Maier has already used the frequent earthquakes and new equipment as part of a discussion in the first day of spring semester classes.

 Earthquake Data
The Alva sensor for the seismometer equipment recorded the last double-earthquake over the winter break. The first bulge is the initial earthquake, no larger than a M4.4 while the second bulge is the M4.8 earthquake.

In visiting with the technician on site completing the installation, information on possible career paths can be shared with students interested in Earth processes.

The result of the data from USGS of local earthquakes collected by the instrumentation is online and open to the public.

For the link and instructions on how to use the online data click here. The instructions also are located here.

For more information about the equipment or the Natural Sciences department contact Maier at (580) 327-8562 or