Indian scientists conduct earthquake prediction research

HYDERABAD (TIP): A group of scientists from the National Geophysical Research Institute is one step closer to actually viewing earthquakes and find out what triggers them. A pioneering deep-earth study underway in the Koyna-Warna region of Maharashtra will lead to improved earthquake prediction, scientists said. The Koyna-Warna region is known for frequent seismic activity, attributed to changes in water levels in water reservoirs present in the region. The objective of the study is to drill holes to depths of 8km to directly visualize and measure rock changes during earthquakes.

Fifty researchers from Hyderabadbased NGRI recently concluded airborne gravity gradeometery studies to get a closer look at Earth’s interior, again a first of its kind in the country. “The airborne study across the 600 square km region has thrown immense amount of data. Post analysis, we aim to determine all details of compositional changes within the earth’s interior,” Dr Purnachandra Rao, senior principal scientist at NGRI, who is leading the research, said. The aerial study will help scientists in determining drilling locations. “By March 2014 we intend to drill 10 holes. We expect the project to take anywhere between 5 to 10 years by when we would be actually be able to see what happens inside the earth before, during and after an earthquake. In the years to come we will be able to understand how changing water levels exactly trigger earthquakes,” said Dr Rao. Earlier this year, to test their drilling test capabilities, the research team drilled two holes to depths of 1.5km and retrieved samples of deepearth rocks. Their efforts also led to an exact measure of the ‘Deccan Trap’ in the study region.

The Deccan Traps are large volcanic deposits formed due to eruptions about 65 million years ago. Talking about reservoir-triggered seismic activity, Rao said the research project in its final phases will help explain various phenomena, including connection between water seepage into rock and seismic activity. In addition to that, drilling will also allow them to place underground earthquake detection devices which will lead to creation of highly efficient warning systems. “The existent practices in seismic studies cannot tell us precisely what is happening deep inside the earth but by drilling into earth we will be able to make direct measurements,” added Rao. Given that available drilling technology in India cannot drill beyond 2km, the project will soon see multinational involvement so as to make available to researchers international drilling and interdisciplinary expertise.

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