Saturday, March 31, 2012

Out in the field - Christchurch

Christchurch cityscape

On Thursday i traveled down to Christchurch to help one of our Scientists Lara put out some new seismic test sites in Canterbury,  as she was the 'boss' of the trip i took on the role of navigator and hole digger!

We put out three test sites in total, they will stay in place for a month and then we come back and pack them up. Back at GeoNet HQ the team then look at the all of the data the sites collected, if  they test well (the signals are clear with no noise eg. farm activity) we will potentially build permanent stations there to help us better locate the earthquakes in the Canterbury area. 

All three sites were in the Rakaia district and all on dairy farms so we saw lots of cows (our poor rental ute was a bit messy too!)  The first  test site was in a nice dry grass paddock - so digging the hole for the sensor was 'fun'. It takes about 45min to put out a test site, as long as everything goes to plan - with this site we had a slight issue with the case that houses the data-logger above ground - being good kiwis however, it was nothing that we couldn't fix with a bit of duct-tape!

Rakaia 1
Rakaia 2

We have to dig a small hole at each test site to house to seismometer. The second site  had the added bonus of stony soil - even more fun for digging!  The photo below shows the finished product with the equipment wrapped up in a tarp to protect from the weather, and the electric fence to keep the nosy cows out.

 The photo below is of the final site of the day, although it looks like she is in the middle of cake baking, here Lara is mixing up the ready-set concrete to go into the hole. A concrete paver is carefully placed (and leveled) onto the concrete and its on top of this that the seismometer sits.
Rakaia 3

 On the second day we traveled out to Mount Pleasant here  as we would like to install a new strong motion sensor. These measure the very strong shaking associated with damaging earthquakes and are located in towns or near faults and are usually installed inside buildings.

We found a suitable area down a small terrace and a homeowner kindly let us have a look at his garage which would be a suitable place (they generally need to be on rock or concrete and have a power source). Although there were about eight houses down this particular terrace, one has been demolished and only two are now inhabited since the earthquakes - and the damage is quite obvious as you can see with the shed above.
Stickers on a property

Its strange how you can travel around some parts of Canterbury and even Christchurch and its hard to tell the earthquakes ever happened, and then you can go to certain areas and its very clear!  As we were traveling out to the airport we drove past buildings in various states of demolition, and empty lots where this has already occurred, at the same time there are little signs of hope and resilience - the church below had a cute picture painted on it with 'I'll kiss it better"

A church being demolished in the cbd.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Out in the Field - Problem solving (and a helicopter)

Here at GeoNet we have a fancy system called 'BigBrother' that keeps an eye on all of the equipment we have out and about in NZ, when something goes wrong it alerts our technicians so they can get it fixed ASAP.

Occasionally this involves a wee trip in a helicopter....  

Before this (fun part) however, the technicians problem solve to figure out exactly what is/could be wrong with the sites. Once they have that figured out they load up with tools and various spare parts and head out to the often remote parts of NZ - that's why we need the helicopter.

OHOK site, looking for a spot to land

Today our first stop was the Okoha (OHOK) cGPS site.  Here Sam and Andrew replaced the radio as it was old and a bit temperamental.

Boys playing nicely together.

Testing the comms.

Flying over DURV

Next stop was D'Urville Island here  to our cGPS site DURV.  which was also having some communication problems, this was fixed by replacing a broken freewave radio.

Sam fixing!

cGPS and our chopper for the morning.

The boys also did some general site maintenance and upgrading whilst we were there. Both sites are now back up and running.

A cute little island and lighthouse!

And to finish, a couple of scenic shots - if only every day was like this!

thanks to JK @ Helipro for flying us today!  

Makara WindFarm (West of Wellington)

Friday, March 2, 2012

You asked for a faster GeoNet......

 Well next week, you get it!

 On Tuesday 6th of March our Beta website "GeoNet Rapid" goes live.  The team here at GeoNet have been working on this new system for the past year and are excited to see what you think!

The basics:
- Speed : You will be seeing details of earthquakes from around 2 minutes of their occurrence, as a computer system locates the earthquake as soon as the data arrives (rather than a person waiting for all of the data).
- Numbers : More events will be posted to the rapid site, not just the larger/more widely felt events that we put on the 'recent quakes page' (we located over 19,000 earthquakes last year, so there are plenty!)
- Regions :  Its easier to view earthquakes in your area, with options to see various regions in NZ as well as 'all' or 'felt' events.  You can also view statistics on the earthquakes in the various regions in the last week/month and year.
- History : As more data comes in, the details of an earthquake can change (magnitude/depth etc.) You can see all of these changes right up to the final location as all of the data has been received from our instruments out in the field. The first location can be made in under a minute, as the first data comes in!
- Issues:  This is a beta testing site, so things can go wrong!  Don't panic, thats why we have the test site, to discover all issues and fix them!

- Remember: is still the official source of EQ information, and our duty officers will still be locating the quakes here.
Screenshot of the 'regions' page

Links to the site will be available on the GeoNet website  on Tuesday (and on facebook / twitter etc) as well as a comprehensive news story with information from the history of the new system, to what exactly it does!

I will be giving more blog updates on how to use the website and as more features are added, and for those more g33k types out there - you may like to check out the GeoNet Development blog here.

A great example of how fast the new system will be, is shown in the diagram below comparing automatic location times and manual 'human' times to events located on the 23rd of December.
On 23 December 2011 (UTC) there were 106 earthquakes over magnitude 3 in the Canterbury region.  On average SeisComP3 (SC3) had a first automatic location two minutes after the earthquake occurred and a final automatic location after four minutes.  Compare this to the fifteen to twenty minutes it typically takes to make a manual location

In January i gave a sneak peak at the GeoNet App that we have been working on, here. We plan to have this available on the Android marketplace the following week! < and iPhone later on in the year>