NOAA researchers in Newport record sounds of March 11 earthquake

NEWPORT – Earthquakes are felt more often than heard, but Oregon scientists say the sound of the March 11 Japan earthquake alone could help improve our ability to detect earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the deep ocean.

Image of NOAA/PMEL sound recording

Scientists with the NOAA Vents Program at Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory captured the sounds of the earthquake using an underwater microphone near the Aleutian Islands – 900 miles from the quake epicenter.

“The Japan earthquake was the largest source of ocean sound ever recorded on our hydrophone arrays. This unique record gives us insight into the physics behind how sound is transmitted from the Earth’s crust into the ocean and then propagates through the Pacific Ocean basin,” says Robert Dziak, Ph.D., a scientist with the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine Resource Studies (CIMRS). CIMRS is a partnership between NOAA and Oregon State University. Dziak is also the principal investigator of the Ocean Acoustic Project in the NOAA Vents Program, based in Newport.

Dziak’s team is one of many research projects taking advantage of a vast network of underwater acoustic devices (developed by the US Navy for surveillance purposes) to listen in on what’s going on deep beneath the surface of the sea. OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute has used the system, for instance, to record the voices of migrating whales as they travel around the Pacific.

Read more from NOAA and listen to the earthquake recording

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