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Alberta - January 22, 2019

Just the thought of an earthquake leaves many Albertans quivering in their boots.

It’s even harder to shake the thought if you’re a resident of Fox Creek, a small, earthquake-prone town nestled in the central part of the province. Earthquakes in Alberta are few and far between, yet Fox Creek has become known in recent years for its higher-than-usual earthquake activity due to hydraulic fracturing, and for its other energy resource development.

Luckily for the town’s 1700-plus residents, a new earthquake (or seismic) monitoring station has been installed in the most no-nonsense place one could think of: right in the middle of Fox Creek. Although most people will never see the equipment, which is discreetly tucked away in a residential area, Alberta Geology Survey (AGS) experts are betting that it will help put residents’ minds at ease.

Where the Action Is

While Fox Creek is no stranger to earthquake monitoring—there are four seismic monitoring stations already laced around its outskirts—this new location has AGS seismology experts stirring with excitement. Javad Yusifbayov, an AGS seismologist who helped install the equipment, says he sees the more central location as game-changing.

"The farther a station is from Fox Creek, the harder it is for us to approximate what an earthquake feels like for a resident in their home," explains Yusifbayov. “With the placement of this new station, we no longer need to approximate our numbers. We can detect exactly what people are feeling.”

Seismicity

The digitizer helps determine what’s happening underground.

There’s Power in Numbers

Since 2013, specialists at AGS have been adding seismic monitoring stations in and around Fox Creek. Built into each station is a seismometer, a device that measures ground vibrations. Any detected vibrations are recorded digitally and sent, in near real time, to AGS, where the data is analyzed. All of this information allows experts to detect and monitor earthquakes.

With the latest station up and running, Todd Shipman, senior advisor of induced seismicity, says AGS is eager to tackle its next challenge: how to make its findings accessible to those who sense the ground is shaking.

"In the future, we’d like to put all of our data into the hands of Fox Creek residents,” says Shipman. “We’re looking at ways we can equip someone to look up what they are feeling and where an earthquake sits on a scale of magnitude."

In the meantime, AGS experts continue to monitor ground vibrations across the province. The seismic monitoring station in Fox Creek is part of an extensive network of over 50 stations all over Alberta.

The Regional Alberta Observatory for Earthquake Studies Network (RAVEN) is used by the AGS in conjunction with networks operated by other research organizations, including Natural Resources Canada, the University of Alberta, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Calgary, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, and the United States Geological Survey.

For more information about earthquake monitoring in Alberta, visit the AGS website.

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