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NIU seismic station detects Japanese quake

March 14, 2011

A seismogram from the March 11 Japanese earthquake recorded at the NIU seismic station in Davis Hall.

Despite DeKalb being roughly 6,000 miles away from Japan, the seismic station on campus at NIU was able to detect the devastating March 11 earthquake and record a seismogram.

A seismogram is an image created by a seismograph, a device used to record earthquake vibrations.

NIU geology professor Philip Carpenter still was reviewing digitized recordings Monday, March 14, from the magnitude-9.0 quake that occurred off the eastern coast of Japan, touching off a deadly tsunami.

“The waves go through the earth and cause vibrations,” Carpenter said. “Even here in DeKalb, you can get small vibrations in the ground. I’m confident we recorded aftershocks from the Japanese quake as well.”

Carpenter said it’s not unusual for NIU’s seismic station, located in the basement of Davis Hall, to record earthquakes in Japan with a magnitude of 6 or greater.

The station also recorded the Indonesian quakes of 2004 and 2005, as well as the Chilean earthquake in February 2010, and it regularly records data on any temblor of magnitude 5 or greater in the United States.

“The instrument we have magnifies ground motion millions of times,” Carpenter told WIFR-TV in Rockford.

Geology Professor Philip Carpenter is interviewed on WIFR-TV

Compared to the magnitude-3.8 quake that rattled northern Illinois 13 months ago, the Japanese quake released “something like 24 million times as much energy.”

Carpenter plans to display the seismogram images in his geology classes when students return next week from spring break.


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