Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - A new project lead by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, professor of geophysics Carl Tape, will unite seismic analysis and modeling with supercomputing power.
The project came from a recognition a decade ago that the science of seismology couldn’t advance without using newly available supercomputers.
The project will give seismologists the ability to answer complex questions about plate tectonics and the sources of seismic waves, such as natural events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and avalanches, as well as human-caused events like nuclear explosions.
Dr. Tape said that even though the project is nationally scaled, he is personally interested in understanding the complex plate dynamics here in Alaska.
"So in the southeast, you have this basically it's kind of like the northern San Andreas fault, I mean it's, by my view more impressive than the San Andreas Fault. You have the fairweather fault which is a plate boundary between the Pacific Plate and North America that helps form the highest coastal mountains on the planet with the Wrangell St. Elias mountains, and all these processes you're looking at are driven by long term plate tectonics."
He says using supercomputers will help scientists more accurately analyze big events, such as the Lituya bay Tsunami, using seismic waves to information about the earth through which they are passing.
"In places where you have these large events, you have very complicated geology. You have high mountains, you have faults, you have this piles of sediment, like Lituya Bay, it's a huge glacial fjord filled with sediments. If you want to understand how waves propagate whether they're tsunami waves or earthquake waves, you need to point some sophisticated tools at it, you need to describe the earth to a computer in order to understand how waves will propagate"
The Seismic Computational Platform for Empowering Discovery, or SCOPED, project involves five universities: UAF, University of Washington, Columbia University, University of Texas, and the Colorado School of Mines.
SCOPED hopes to provide scientists with essential information as they continue looking for detailed answers to questions such as how Earth’s continental crust evolve over millions of years, How Earth’s subsurface structures change and evolve over seconds to weeks, What the dynamics are of volcanic systems, and What controls the occurrence of earthquakes.
The project will establish a database of existing raw seismic data and research-grade data products alongside supercomputing processors for seismologists.