Origins of a National Seismic System in the United States

Origins of a National Seismic System in the United States

John R. Filson, Walter J. Arabasz

ABSTRACT

This historical review traces the origins of the current national seismic system in the United States, a cooperative effort that unifies national, regional, and local-scale seismic monitoring within the structure of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS). The review covers (1) the history and technological evolution of U.S. seismic networks leading up to the 1990s, (2) factors that made the 1960s and 1970s a watershed period for national attention to seismology, earthquake hazards, and seismic monitoring, (3) genesis of the vision of a national seismic system during 1980–1983, (4) obstacles and breakthroughs during 1984–1989, (5) consensus building and convergence during 1990–1992, and finally (6) the twostep realization of a national system during 1993–2000. Particular importance is placed on developments during the period between 1980 and 1993 that culminated in the adoption of a charter for the Council of the National Seismic System (CNSS)—the foundation for the later ANSS. Central to this story is how many individuals worked together toward a common goal of a more rational and sustainable approach to national earthquake monitoring in the United States. The review ends with the emergence of ANSS during 1999 and 2000 and its statutory authorization by Congress in November 2000.

UUSS 2015 Annual Report

UUSS Annual Report 2015

2015 Annual Report

2015 has been another vibrant and productive year for the University of Utah Seismograph Stations (UUSS). Our longstanding partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) was extended with a new, 5-yr cooperative agreement from the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. This award ensures that earthquake monitoring in Utah will continue to operate with state-of-the-art equipment and software at least through 2020. Congratulations to the UUSS staff for all their hard work on the USGS proposal, it was truly a team effort.

The legacy of UUSS in earthquake monitoring and research was recognized in 2015 as two former UUSS Directors received prestigious awards for career accomplishments. Research Professor Emeritus Dr. Walter J. Arabasz received the 2015 Alfred E. Alquist Special Recognition Medal from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, while Professor Emeritus Dr. Robert B. Smith received the 2015 Paul G. Silver Award from the American Geophysical Union. Congratulations to Walter and Bob for the leadership and service they have provided to the seismological community over the last several decades.

UUSS developed a new monitoring capability in 2015 with the acquisition of nearly 50 new wireless seismographs. The instruments were purchased in collaboration with Dr. Fan-Chi Lin and other University of Utah geoscientists, and will allow for the imaging of shallow Earth structure at a very small scale as well as the detection of small aftershocks that follow regional earthquakes. Please look inside to read about one of the first experiments carried out with the new instruments.

We expect great new things in 2016 as well. Keep an eye out for an updated UUSS web page and expanded social media presence. We also look forward to a celebration of the 50th anniversary of UUSS, in April 2016.

UUSS 2014 Annual report

uuss_ar2014 cover2014 Annual Report

Dear Friends,
It is a pleasure to present you with the 2014 Annual Report of the University of Utah seismograph Stations (UUSS). Reflecting on recent UUSS accomplishments, I was struck by the importance of partnerships in pursuing our dual mission of academic research in earthquake science, and communication to the residents of Utah of the latest information on earthquake risk.
As always, a key UUSS partner in 2014 was our home academic unit, the Department of Geology and Geophysics. A nice example of the support shown by our department is the recent hire of a new tenure-track faculty member in seismology, Dr. Fan-Chi Lin. Although Dr. Lin’s expertise is in seismic imaging, he has already expressed interest in collaborating with UUSS faculty on projects related to earthquake science in Utah and Yellowstone.
A second important UUSS partner is the Utah Division of Emergency Management (DEM). This agency administers Utah’s earthquake program and has the responsibility for mitigating and responding to earthquake hazards in the state. The DEM earthquake program funds the UUSS traveling earthquake exhibit, which visited 25 elementary and middle schools throughout Utah in 2014. The DEM also provides financial support for the Utah Seismic Safety Commission, the state’s official earthquake advisory board.
A third partner that is essential to the success of UUSS is the United States Geological Survey (USGS).  The USGS routinely and consistently supports UUSS by providing the latest seismic equipment—and the funding to operate and maintain this equipment. In 2014, USGS funding enabled over 115 seismic stations to be operated in the State of Utah. As with all of our
seismometers, these instruments operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and transmit data to the UUSS earthquake information center within seconds of it being recorded.
Many people at the university, and within state and federal agencies, contribute to the success of UUSS. To learn more about all of our partners, and the achievements they have contributed to, please take a few moments to browse through this year’s Annual Report.

UUSS 2013 Annual Report

uuss_ar2013 cover
University of Utah Seismograph Stations (UUSS) had another busy year in 2013.

The professional highlight was hosting the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America (SSA), April 17-19, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City. The SSA is the world’s premier scientific society dedicated to the study of earthquakes. UUSS personnel served on the organizing committee, led a Town Hall Meeting, moderated several of

the scientific sessions, and contributed to 12 scientific presentations. For some UUSS students, it was the first time attending a professional meeting and they were excited to meet scientists whom they had previously known by reputation only.
During 2013 UUSS detected and located about 6,000 earthquakes in the Intermountain West. This region includes all of Utah and Yellowstone National Park, as well as parts of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Although none of the earthquakes were large enough to cause significant damage, careful documentation of these events allows us to better define
the locations of active faults and to estimate seismic hazard in the region more precisely. The geologic record clearly indicates that magnitude 6.5-7.5 earthquakes have repeatedly occurred along the Wasatch fault in areas of Utah that are now densely populated.
In addition to earthquakes, our seismic network often observes other “exotic” sources of seismic energy. Such a source occurred on the evening of April 10, 2013 when the northeastern wall of the Bingham Canyon, Utah open-pit copper mine collapsed in two distinct landslides separated by about 90 minutes. The combined episode was the largest non-volcanic landslide to occur in North America in modern times. Seismic waves were well recorded thousands of kilometers away from the mine, and at least 16 tiny earthquakes were triggered by stress changes associated
with the landslide. Owing to rigorous geotechnical monitoring, the mine operators were able to accurately predict the timing of the landslide and so avoid casualties.
A second exotic seismic source occurred on July 31 at 7:30 p.m. (local time) when the Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupted, sending water 200-300 feet in the air. Signals recorded at a nearby seismometer showed energy lasting for over two hours as steam poured out of vents following the initial eruption. Notably, acoustic energy from the eruption was recorded by one of the infrasound stations located in the park.
In 2014 the students, faculty, and staff of UUSS will continue to monitor earthquake activity in the Intermountain West and to raise awareness of the seismic hazard in the State of Utah. Academic research will focus on a range of topics including the rupture properties of large earthquakes, earthquake swarm and aftershock sequences, seismicity induced by mining and
other anthropogenic activities, as well as producing better images and models of the geological structure beneath Utah and Yellowstone.