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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 10:45 GMT
Satellite technology aids quake research
Italian earthquake
The recent earthquake in Italy destroyed a school
Scientists are using global positioning technology at a new monitoring station in north-east England to better understand and predict earthquakes.

The system could also be used to provide better weather forecasts for the region.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) station 20 miles north of Newcastle measures the movements of the Earth's crust and feeds the information into a computer.

The data is then being made available to scientists across the globe via the internet.

Embedded in earth


The recent earthquakes in Manchester and Italy have highlighted our need to better understand the movement of the Earth's crust in England

Dr Matt King, Newcastle University

There are 200 such monitoring stations across the world. The one at Newcastle University's farm, Cockle Park, in Morpeth, Northumberland is the most north-westerly in Europe.

The UK has one other such station as the Royal Greenwich Observatory in East Sussex.

An antenna, which is 40cm across and 15cm high, is firmly embedded in a 4.5 tonne slab of 300 million year-old sandstone from Yorkshire which in turn is fixed almost three metres into the earth.

The distances between the circular antenna and the GPS satellites above are measured every 15 seconds to provide vital information about the Earth's crust movements.

The measurements can also be used to compile weather forecasts.

"The recent earthquakes in Manchester and Italy have highlighted our need to better understand the movement of the Earth's crust in England," said Dr Matt King of Newcastle University's School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences.

"The data submitted to the IGS is used to define the fundamental reference frame on which all modern survey measurements are based," he added.

Mapping projects, such as Ordnance Survey maps, will also benefit from the project he said.

See also:

03 Nov 02 | Europe
01 Nov 02 | Europe
22 Oct 02 | England
15 Oct 02 | England
23 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
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