x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Quake monitoring centre opens

The new station is capable of monitoring tremors around the world and will provide much-needed insight into the Zagros seismic zone

SHARJAH // Buried deep inside Wadi al Helou's mountain lies the UAE's newest earthquake monitoring centre, which opened yesterday.

The University of Sharjah Seismic Station (UOSSS) is the latest earthquake station to join the Global Seismographic Network (GSN), a group of 150 monitoring stations that provide real-time information on seismic activity around the world and essential data for tsunami warnings.

Speaking at the opening, Professor Samy Mahmoud, the Chancellor of Sharjah University, said: "The tragic events and the massive earthquake that occurred two weeks ago off the coast of Japan had devastating effects on many countries across the Pacific and it has sadly reminded us once again of how vulnerable humans in all corners of the planet are to the forces of natural disasters.

"It has also emphasised the need for international co-operation to face such disasters, from the early warning stage to rescue-mobilisation efforts."

Professor Abdullah Shanableh, the project director, said the vision for UOSSS was born in 2002 after a quake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale damaged homes in Fujairah's Masafi region.

"From that earthquake, experts advised that engineers needed to develop building codes to design safe houses based on local seismic hazards," he said.

In 2005, the UOSSS committee was established and preparations began at the site in Wadi al Helou for the installation of GSN instrumentation.

After six years of work, the UOSSS was officially opened yesterday by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the Ruler of Sharjah.

The station was designed by engineering students at the University of Sharjah, who worked in partnership with the University of California, San Diego.

The seismic equipment was installed within a vault to ensure the quality of recorded data. The sensors were also installed in fractured rock that allows seismic signals to be recorded at high quality.

"The station's highly sensitive instruments are capable of detecting and measuring moderate to large earthquakes anywhere in the world and small quakes near the station," said Dr Peter Davis, a seismologist from the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the University of California and one of the project supervisors.

The sensors are powered electrically and telecommunications cables allow the transfer of data from the station to various monitoring bodies, including the GSN and the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS).

Data will be supplied to supplement information collected from other seismic monitoring stations.

Dr Davis said the UOSSS, together with the other stations of the GSN, would provide scientists and engineers around the world with important data to help assess earthquake locations, hazard mitigation, and emergency response.

"As with other international seismic stations, the instruments of the Sharjah University Station are connected to sophisticated computers that allow analysis of information received," said Dr Davis. "When an earthquake occurs, the seismological centres, including that of the University of Sharjah, receive signals from different stations.

"The signals are then analysed and, if necessary, the competent authorities and institutions issue appropriate information for emergency response and risk mitigation."

The Wadi al Helou location, near the Sharjah-Kalba road, was strategically chosen for its proximity to the Zagros fault line, the region's most active seismic zone.

"This location is ideal for improving our knowledge of seismic activity in the area," said Dr Davis.

The Zagros fault line marks the meeting point for the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates within Iran's Zagros mountain range. It is a highly volatile zone: on December 26, 2003, an earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Moment Magnitude Scale killed 26,271 people in the south-eastern city of Bam, Iran.