2014 Archives

The Seismologist: SMU's Heather DeShon Studies The Shaking In Azle And Reno


The following is from the June 11, 2014, edition of KERA public radio. Heather DeShon, an SMU associate professor of geophysics, is leader of the Reno-Azle earthquake research team.

June 26, 2014

By Doualy Xaykaothao

Heather DeShon is a geophysicist at SMU. She’s studied earthquake sequences in Indonesia, Nicaragua, but also in North Texas -- in Cleburne. Now she leads a team collecting data in towns northwest of Fort Worth.

After a cluster of small earthquakes hit in November, DeShon and SMU scientists placed seismic stations in Parker, Wise and Tarrant counties.

“The seismic stations measure the acceleration of the ground,” DeShon said. “When an earthquake happens, it moves the ground. What this allows us to do is to record the seismic waves, and that allows us to do a better job to locate the earthquakes.” The U.S. Geological Survey sent DeShon’s team small blue boxes called NetQuake stations.

“We put them in secure locations with wireless access,” DeShon said. “And every hour, the station pings the USGS, and sends the last hours worth of data. You can view that online, in near real time, and the data will eventually be archived for anyone to look at.”

These instruments are recording accelerations or movements underground, 24/7.

“Once we know where the earthquakes are occurring, we can figure out the mechanism of the earthquake,” DeShon said. “If they’re associated with a fault, how large is that fault? How big an earthquake might we expect in the future?”

The information being collected could help determine seismic hazards. 

“For the Dallas-Fort Worth area in particular, if it appears that something is changing, and I’m not saying it is, but if that ends up being the conclusions, then we need to pass that data and those conclusions on to other public agencies," DeShon said.

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