Detect Earthquakes by submarine cables


Detect earthquakes by submarine cables! This might have become possible. There are thousands of kilometers of fibre optics on the ocean floor. These fiber optics are owned by various governments, telecommunication providers and technology companies.

“Fibre optic cables connect far-flung continents along the ocean floor, and much of the internet’s international traffic travels over these cables. Google’s global network of undersea cables makes it possible to share, search, send, and receive information around the world at the speed of light. These cables are built using optical fibres that carry data as pulses of light traveling at 204,190 kilometres per second,” Valey Kamalov and Mattia Cantono, from Google Global Networking wrote in a blog posted on Thursday (16th July).

These fibre optic submarine cables carry data as pulses of light traveling at the speed of 204,190 kilometers per second. A property of light that is tracked through the optical transmission is the state of polarization (SOP). This State of Polarisation (SOP) changes when there  are mechanical disturbances along the cable. By tracking these disturbances we can detect seismic activity.

In 2019, Google started tracking SOP on some of the undersea cables. For several weeks the ocean floor remained unusually quiet. However, on January 28, 2020, Google detected a 7.7 magnitude earthquake off of the coast of Jamaica—which was 1500 km away from one of Google’s cable. In the following months Google was also able to detect some mid size earthquakes.

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Quoted in a news release by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), study lead author Ethan F. Williams says: “Fiber optic communications cables are growing more and more common on the sea floor. Rather than place a whole new device, we can tap into some of this fiber and start observing seismicity immediately.”

We have all studied in school that predicting earthquakes is not possible. However, now it seems that predicting earthquakes with the help of optic fibre submarine cables might become a reality.