Much like National Weather Service sirens signal impending severe weather, so too may a similar system warn us before earthquakes strike or volcanoes erupt.
Using 1,700 seismographs spread across the lower 48 states, two S&T geophysicists are creating a sort of CT scan of the North American plate, which has been moving southwest at a rate of about an inch a year.
The shift is a continuation of the breaking of the giant supercontinent Pangea 200 million years ago, says Kelly Liu, professor of geophysics at Missouri S&T. As the plate moves, it creates earthquakes and volcanic hot spots, huge mountain chains and gigantic ocean basins.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, Liu and geophysics professor Stephen Gao are looking for azimuthal anisotropy along the path of a seismic wave. Seismic azimuthal anisotropy measurement is a powerful way to image the earth’s internal structural fabric. Their work could lay the foundation for predicting earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.