Alaska Communications is collaborating with the University of Michigan’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences to allow earthquake monitoring data to be collected from the ocean floor via the company’s subsea fiber optic cable.

University of Michigan Assistant Professor Ƶack Spica and a graduate student traveled to Alaska Communications’ landing station in Florence, Oregon last week to attach a DAS interrogator (distributed acoustic sensing) to the company’s fiber. The instrument uses a beam of light inside the fiber to analyze seismic activity and report data back to the research team. Spica has used subsea fiber optic cables for monitoring in Japan and Spain and has also used fiber within urban areas for this type of research.

“With the Cascadia subduction zone stretching along the Pacific Northwest coastline along Canada, this is in an ideal location for our team to gather seismic data,” said Spica. “This research project will support continued learning about utilizing fiber for earthquake research, as well as learn how we can use this technology to provide early warning for tsunamis, which are often prompted by earthquakes.”

“With two subsea cables connecting Alaska to the Lower 48, we have substantial infrastructure to aid in research that can help our communities,” said Rick Benken, vice president, network strategy, engineering and operations at Alaska Communications. “We’re excited to support University of Michigan in gaining important insights about earthquakes and tsunamis.”

Read more about Spica’s work using fiber optic cables for earthquake monitoring in “Michigan News.”