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Geologists watching deadly earthquake, tsunami

TAMPA, Fla. -- The devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake that shook Japan and unleashed a tsunami, which set communities along the Pacific Ocean on edge, did not affect six USF students studying in central Japan, but quickly became a focus of USF experts on seismic event and water movement.

USF geologists were turning their attention to the quake and the tsunami, which was recorded on seismic equipment in central Florida just minutes after occurring. Geology assistant professor Tim Dixon and assistant professor Diana Roman spent much of Friday answering questions from the Tampa Bay media that became a crash course in earthquake science.

A Florida seismograph, which is part of the Global Seismographic Network, an international system of instruments deployed in the 1960s to monitor both earthquake activity and nuclear bomb deployment, was able to detect movement from Friday’s quake within 15 minutes after it occurred with larger energy waves detected 20 minutes later. The sensor in Kissimmee is buried deep in the ground in a quiet Disney wildlife preserve, Roman said.

Roman, who studies volcanoes and the small earthquakes produced by volcanic eruptions, said the event was the result of tectonic plates that meet near Japan making an abrupt shift. Like many others, Roman awoke Friday to the startling news of the unusual disaster.

“When I heard it was an 8.9, my first reaction was ‘Oh, that’s bad,’” she said. “I immediately went to the computer and started looking at the data.

“The video I was seeing from Japan was just mind-blowing. I know these things from an academic sense, but when you think about how they would actually feel … it would be absolutely terrifying.”


Filed under:Arts and Sciences Geology School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics   
Author: Vickie Chachere