Virac Earthquake Sensor Gets Phivolcs Upgrade

Scientists from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology (Phivolcs) and a Japanese research institute last week upgraded an existing earthquake sensing facility in the capital town of Virac as part of a five-year project funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The seven-man team, led by Senior Science Research Specialist Arnaldo Melosantos of the Phivolcs’ Seismological Observation and Earthquake Prediction Division, arrived Nov. 17 for two days of meticulous work installing a so-called Broadband Sensor and accessory equipment at the facility located on top of a small hill inside Mayor Cito Alberto’s sprawling fighting-cock farm in Palta Small. The other team members included Dr. Hiroshi Inoue, chief seismologist, and Dr. Nelson Pulido, researcher, both of the Japan National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention based in Tsukuba City.

The new device, which replaced the previous short-period sensor, will be able to detect earthquakes anywhere in the world, Melosantos said. It will be particularly useful, he added, in detecting activity at nearby faults, the Philippine Trench and volcanoes.

Not only will it be able to determine the earthquake’s magnitude, depth and ground acceleration at the locality, the new sensor will likewise transmit its data to the Phivolcs and Japan using the existing satellite dish powered by solar power, he disclosed.

"It will certainly improve quake detection, particularly the big ones with the potential to generate tsunamis, which cannot be done by the old device," the Phivolcs scientist stated. The devices installed in the fenced facility included a solar panel, accelerometer and other electronics, and 10 power storage batteries.

The original site, 16-square meter lot, was donated to Phivolcs sometime after 2000 when the agency was looking for 30 locations to host the short-period earthquake sensor.

Melosantos bared that the project, Enhancement of Earthquake and Volcano Monitoring and Effective Utilization of Disaster Information in the Philippines, is being funded by a 30-million Yen funding from JICA and Japan Science and Technology. This year, four other similar sensor upgrading projects are being undertaken in Pagadian City, Brookes Point in Palawan, Zamboanga del Sur, and Lubang Island in Occidental Mindoro. Up next year are those in Borongan in Samar, Mati in Davao Oriental, El Nido in Palawan, Basco in Batanes, and Baler in Aurora.

Another Phivolcs team is due to arrive in Catanduanes either this December or sometime next year to study the vulnerability of coastal areas here to tsunamis. Lectures will be conducted in the vulnerable barangays to make the residents aware of the effects and dangers of earthquakes as well as familiarize them with the common signs of tsunamis. "The danger here is ignorance," stressed Melosantos, who said that most often than not, the people do not know what to do during and after a strong earthquake.

Catanduanes lies just west of the Philippine Trench, an earthquake generator, and is sandwiched on three sides by the Casiguran Fault system. At least three earthquakes of 7.0 magnitude and larger have occurred near the island since 1982 while during the recent Chile earthquake that caused a worldwide tsunami alert, sea levels around the island rose by at least a meter.

Source: Catanduanes Tribune - 23 November 2010