With no signs earthquakes will stop rumbling in the state anytime soon, Oklahoma museums and schools are being targeted to participate in a nationwide citizen science project that tracks – or catches – seismic activity to learn more about quakes and also promote earthquake safety.
About a month ago, the Tulsa Geoscience Center, located at 600 S. Main St., received a sensor from The Quake-Catcher Network.
Including that sensor, the Tulsa area now has three: two in Tulsa and one in Broken Arrow, according to the network’s sensor map. A handful of sensors are scattered through the Oklahoma City area. There’s one each in Stillwater and Seminole.
The detector is a small box that connects to a computer through a USB drive and measures the motion of the ground from every dimension.
“So up and down, side to side and forward and back,” the network’s program manager, Robert de Groot, told the Tulsa World.
The sensors detect that motion and can gauge whether or not an earthquake occurred and its magnitude, and all that data is sent to the network, which is based at the University of Southern California, de Groot said.
Though de Groot did contend earthquakes can occur pretty much everywhere, because of limited resources, the Quake-Catcher Network primarily targets states known for seismic activity, such as California (where the network is based), Oregon, Washington, North Dakota and Oklahoma.
Those with the network hope schools will use the data to teach students about earthquakes – a phenomenon many have felt in real life.
“It’s not something that’s contrived. It’s actually something that’s happened. It happened in your own front yard in Oklahoma,” de Groot said.
On Sept. 3, the largest earthquake ever recorded in Oklahoma – a 5.8 temblor recorded near Pawnee – shook the state. Since then, more than 70 quakes above a 2.5 magnitude have hit Oklahoma, according to United States Geological Society data.
The geoscience center in Tulsa also has a separate seismograph specifically to track the movements of its visitors. They encourage children to jump around to see what effect they have on the detector, Randall said.
The network’s seismograph, which is taped to the floor, also detects those vibrations, but has been calibrated to recognize that those aren’t earthquakes, Randall said.
De Groot said one of the motivations for teaching people about earthquakes and getting them involved in that education is to promote earthquake safety so people know how to protect themselves and their belongings from temblors.
It also gives them a sense of what’s going on around them.
“Oklahoma is earthquake country. So understanding what earthquake country is doing is a key thing for everybody,” de Groot said.
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