ScienceShot: Sounds of Disaster

The quake-generated ground motions recorded by seismometers contain large amounts of information about how earthquakes unfold. Now, researchers have brought the seismic vibrations of last year's magnitude-9.0 temblor in Japan to life by speeding up the vibrations 100-fold, bringing them into the human range of hearing. Data recorded at a site between the quake's epicenter and Tokyo (image above) capture the thunderous blast of the initial temblor as well as the rumbles of dozens of large aftershocks in the ensuing hour, the researchers report in the March/April issue of Seismological Research Letters. Data captured by an instrument near Parkfield, California, chronicle the low rumble of the distant quake as well as a series of high-frequency vibrations resulting from small quakes that the Japanese temblor triggered along the San Andreas fault. The researchers hope the animations will help educate the general public and possibly inspire interest in seismology among students.

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