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Measurement for our planet
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Measurement for our planet

As COP26 approaches, discover how NPL plays a key role in enabling climate action through the delivery of accurate, reliable data that supports decision making and enables low carbon innovation.

Time and frequency

Seismic detection

Using undersea cables to detect earthquake vibrations

NPL has developed a novel use for pre-existing undersea cables, repurposing them as acoustic sensors for the detection of underwater earthquakes. NPL’s experienced team of scientists used both terrestrial and submarine fibre optic links and an ultra-stable laser to detect vibrations ranging from distances of 25 to 18,500km from earthquake epicentres.

By integrating this approach with current seismometer-based networks, the technique has the potential to expand the global earthquake monitoring infrastructure from land to the sea floor where only a handful of permanent seismometers are currently installed. The technique does not require any change to the underwater infrastructure, providing for the first time an affordable and scalable solution for sea floor monitoring on a global scale.

The ground-breaking technique could potentially be used for early tsunami detection, providing additional life-saving warning times for coastal communities around the world.

Highlights of our recent research include:

Ultrastable laser interferometry for earthquake detection with terrestrial and submarine cables

NPL research demonstrates how submarine fibre cables could be used to detect earthquakes


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Lead researcher

Giuseppe Marra

Principal Research Scientist

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