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Scientists Spot Undersea Fault Using Fiber-Optic Cables


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The California coastline at Monterey Bay.

University of California, Berkeley scientists discovered a seismic fault five miles off Monterey Bay by firing infrared laser pulses along an idle fiber-optic cable.

Credit: Larry Dale Gordon/Getty Images

University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) scientists discovered a new underwater fault five miles off Monterey Bay with infrared laser pulses fired along an idle fiber-optic cable.

The researchers think this technique could help monitor and define large unmapped areas of the ocean floor through distributed acoustic sensing.

UC Berkeley's Nate Lindsey said a 12-mile stretch of fiber-optic cable did the job of 10,000 conventional instruments in detecting an offshore earthquake whose seismic activity affected the earth surrounding the fiber, triggering changes in the reflected light.

Lindsey pinpointed the site of the quake by timing how long it took the pulse to fire, reflect off impurities in the fiber glass, and return to shore.

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