Chasing Aftershocks To Get Answers

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USGS officials want to know why a 5.3 earthquake struck Southern Colorado. They tell 11 News its very unusual for that area to have big earthquakes like this.

To answer the question “why,” they are chasing aftershocks. They have plant four portable stations around Valdez, a town southwest of Trinidad. That is the area that was hit the hardest. USGS officials say the epicenter of the 5.3 quake was just south of Valdez.

They are burying what are called seismometers. These instruments pick up every tiny movement and vibration of the earth. They are so sensitive that from Colorado they can detect earthquakes across the world, such as the quake in Japan.

By doing this they can better understand the earthquake and determine exactly where it originated.

11 News caught up with USGS officials near Valdez. First the field technicians dug a hole. Then they placed the seismometer in a bucket, to help waterproof the instrument. Once they have it pointed north, and leveled, they hook cables to it and wrap it with a foam-like material; this helps keep the seismometer at a consistent temperature. They are very sensitive and any change in temperature will change the readings of the earth’s movements.

The seismometers are hooked up to a computer hard drive. The movement they pick up are converted to a digital format and saved onto the hard drive. This gives seismologists the opportunity to study the earth’s movements in that area. The information is either sent via satellite over the internet or a field technician picks up the drive from the portable station.

For the next three weeks, they will record every movement of the aftershocks. Already there have been ten, and officials expect more.

Field technicians tell 11 News by understanding everything about the earth’s movements and vibrations in that area, they can better understand why the earthquake happened. And by monitoring the aftershocks, they can determine if something like this could happen again in Southern Colorado.

"Nobody can predict earthquakes. Nobody can say when it will happen. That would be great. The best we can do is give probabilities. We can tell the communities there is such and such chance of an earthquake happening. That's what we are trying to do,” said USGS Field Technician Daniel Bowden.

They also set up a GPS to locate the instrument. These are only temporary stations and will be removed in three weeks, or when the aftershocks end.

Bowden tells 11 News if they can understand what type of rock lies in the earth’s crust, understand the seismic waves, the faults and plate tectonics of that area, they can better determine probability.

USGS officials want to know, “Did You Feel It?” They want to know if you felt that 5.3 earthquake that rocked Southern Colorado. You can share your earthquake experience by visiting their website. The link is below.

By sharing your story, it can better help USGS determine exactly where the earthquake struck and how the earth in that area sends out shockwaves.