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How Fiber Optic Cables Could Warn You of an Earthquake

And last month in the journal Scientific Reports, a separate team of researchers described how they used undersea cables off the coasts of Chile, Greece, and France to detect earthquakes. They compared this data to seismometer data that monitored the same events, and they matched well. “We can, in real time while the earthquake is happening, analyze the signals recorded using optical fibers and estimate the magnitude of the earthquake,” says Itzhak Lior, a seismologist at Israel’s Hebrew University and lead author of the paper. “The game changer here is we can estimate the magnitude every 10 meters along the fiber.” 

Because a traditional seismometer measures at a single point, it can get thrown off by localized data noise, like that caused by large vehicles rolling by. “If you have fibers, you can actually quite easily distinguish an earthquake from noise, because an earthquake is almost instantaneously recorded along hundreds of meters,” says Lior. “If it’s some local noise source, like a car or train or whatever, you only see it on a few tens of meters.”

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