Rensselaer Research Review Fall 2010
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Measuring Earthquake Aftershocks in Chile
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* Deployment map

Deployment map shows stations installed in the rupture region of the 2010 magnitude 8.8 earthquake (4/4/10). Image courtesy of R. Russo. Detailed map.

A team of geophysicists led by Rensselaer Professor Steven Roecker traveled to Chile in March to study the scope and strength of aftershocks that continued to rattle the area following the massive Feb. 27 8.8-magnitude earthquake. The 10-member team, which was assembled quickly from universities around the United States, worked to put in place more than 50 broadband seismometers throughout the impacted area in Chile.

“This earthquake is the fifth largest megathrust earthquake to be recorded,” said Roecker, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rensselaer. “As such, it presents scientists with an unprecedented opportunity to study the aftershocks and related geologic phenomena.”

The research is funded by a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The aftershocks, which range from minor vibrations to substantial earthquakes such as the 6.9-magnitude aftershock that occurred on March 11, could go on for more than a year following an earthquake of this magnitude, according to Roecker. The array of seismometers record all seismic activity along a 500-kilometer zone stretching south of the city of Santiago.

Earth's Evolution in Fast Forward

“We are looking to capture as much seismic activity as we can,” he said. “What geophysicists know is that the Earth does substantial readjusting right after an earthquake, so quick monitoring in the aftermath is essential. Seeing these geologic modifications in real time gives us the chance to study the normally slow physical changes that occur under the earth extremely fast. We can acquire a wealth of knowledge on some of the most basic, million-year processes of the Earth in a few months.”

The scientists can also start to pull together important clues about what exactly occurred under the earth in Chile on Feb. 27, Roecker said.

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“Measuring Earthquake Aftershocks in Chile”
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