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Developing stress-monitoring sites and infrastructure for forecasting earthquakes

Objective

Problems to be solved:
Discoveries made during previous EC Projects suggest that the times and magnitudes of large earthquakes can be forecast at "stress-monitoring sites" (SMSs). This project is to develop a SMS in a potential seismic gap in Northern Iceland, where by good fortune, there are three wells available with almost optimum SMS-geometry. Seismic shear-waves generated in a deeper well will be recorded in two shallower wells in specific ray-path directions, which allow the forecasting of the times and magnitudes when crack distributions reach such critical levels that earthquakes occur. Simultaneously, multi-disciplinary studies will monitor the geophysical and geological setting to provide the infrastructure necessary to interpret forecasts correctly, estimate earthquake epicentres, investigate triggering mechanisms, and increase understanding of the earthquake source.
Note 1: Monitoring stress at SMSs is probably the most important advance towards mitigating seismic hazard that has yet been developed.
Note 2: SMSs would have recognized the increasing stress before the recent damaging earthquakes in Greece, Taiwan, and Turkey, and give some warning of the earthquakes.
Scientific objectives and approach:
EC PRENLAB-2 Project successfully forecast the time and magnitude of an M=5 earthquake in SW Iceland by using small earthquakes as the source of shear-waves. This project will demonstrate that similar forecasts can be made with measurements of controlled-source cross-well seismic signals, without the need for swarms of small earthquakes. 1) We shall use these previously recognized effects of stress on shear-waves, in surveys transmitting shear-waves from a COV-source in a deeper well to receivers in shallower wells. {The Conoco Orbital Vibrator (COV) shear-wave source has only just become commercially available.} The well geometry is designed so that the COV sends rays of shear-waves along the specific range of ray paths that are sensitive to increasing stress. The seismic records should allow us to recognise the rate of increasing micro crack deformation and estimate the time and magnitude (but not directly the location) when the cracks reach fracture criticality and the impending earthquake occurs. 2) Simultaneous studies of micro earthquake locations, GPS surveys, modelling and analysis of faults and stress, over-pressures (indicated by rock veins in outcrops) and shear-wave polarizations, will provide the infrastructure necessary to estimate the earthquake source and improve our understanding of the forecasting process. In particular, such studies should allow estimates to be made of the epicentre of the forecast earthquake as they did before the successful forecast in Iceland.
EXPECTED IMPACTS:
A large number of countries in Europe, and elsewhere, are at risk of (potentially severe) loss of life and damage from earthquakes. Currently, there are no reliable ways of warning of the approach of such hazards. This project will demonstrate the viability of using SMSs, and the associated infrastructure, to warn of approaching earthquake s, and hence help to mitigate the loss of life and property from earthquakes. It can be argued that this is the most significant advance yet made to forecasting earthquakes since earthquake prediction studies first began over 100 years ago.
The expected impacts are:
1) SMS could be set up near any earthquake-vulnerable city or vibration-sensitive (e.g. nuclear) installation at risk of earthquakes throughout Europe and elsewhere.
2) The ideas and concepts underlying SMSs are wholly European based.
3) Once this Project has shown the viability of SMS for forecasting earthquakes, it is intended to set up commercial organizations to:i) provide a service for developing SMS wherever required, to forecast time and magnitude; and ii) provide the geophysical and geological infrastructure to estimate the epicentre of future large earthquakes.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Address
West Mains Road Kings Buildings
EH9 3JW Edinburgh
United Kingdom

Participants (5)

ICELANDIC METEOROLOGICAL OFFICE
Iceland
Address
Bustadavegur 9
Reykjavik
IMC GEOPHYSICS LIMITED
United Kingdom
Address
Common Road
NG17 2NS Nottingham
UNIVERSITE PIERRE ET MARIE CURIE - PARIS VI
France
Address
Place Jussieu 4
75252 Paris
UNIVERSITY OF BERGEN
Norway
Address
41,Allégaten 41
5007 Bergen
UNIVERSITÉ DE SAVOIE
France
Address
Savoie Technolac
73376 Le Bourget Du Lac