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Yellowstone getting better earthquake monitors

Yellowstone getting better earthquake monitors

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- The Yellowstone "supervolcano" will soon be among the best monitored hot spots in the world with the installation of new earthquake monitoring equipment.

"We should have a fantastic network, probably the best in the world over an active volcano," said Bob Smith, a University of Utah geology and geophysics professor and member of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory.

The park is getting 10 new seismic monitoring stations over the next two years, which will be used jointly at the observatory by the U.S. Geological Survey, Yellowstone National Park and the University of Utah.

Funding for the project will come from a portion of $950,000 in Recovery Act money given to the observatory.

The money pays for new sensors for river monitoring and the installation of a temperature sensor network, new software tools, alarming capabilities and display systems for use by the observatory's partners.

"It will provide everyone with better raw data," said Jake Lowenstern, scientist in charge of the observatory. "All the data is public. So everyone will have much better data."

Yellowstone rests in a 37- by 25-mile caldera that is one of the world's largest volcanoes, known as a supervolcano. It rests upon a magma plume that extends roughly 400 miles beneath the Earth's surface.

The current Yellowstone Seismic Network consists of 26 sites dating back to the mid-1960s, Smith said.

One feature of the system will be a new alarm system that will allow smaller seismic events to be posted directly to the Internet. Right now, any quake smaller than 2.5 in magnitude is filtered through a person to ensure false events are not posted.

There is also $95,000 in federal money going to the Wyoming State Geological Survey to posting geological maps of Yellowstone on the Internet which can be overlaid with earthquake locations or other maps, the researchers said.

The quality of data and the speed at which it will be delivered is a tremendous improvement for scientists studying the Yellowstone super volcano.

"It's the chance of a lifetime," Smith said. "I worked very hard to get that network funded, but now I've got to do it."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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