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UNR’s GPS technology used for NASA quake monitoring test
by Tribune Staff
Apr 29, 2012 | 670 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Geoff Blewitt, professor in the University of Nevada, Reno’s Bureau of Mines and Geology and director of the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory, works on a GPS installation atop 8,600-foot-elevation Ward Peak at Lake Tahoe.
Geoff Blewitt, professor in the University of Nevada, Reno’s Bureau of Mines and Geology and director of the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory, works on a GPS installation atop 8,600-foot-elevation Ward Peak at Lake Tahoe.
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RENO — GPS technology developed and implemented at the University of Nevada, Reno will be the centerpiece of a major test this year by NASA to pinpoint the location and magnitude of strong earthquakes along the West Coast of the United States, officials said this week.

“We invented the technique to predict tsunamis using GPS, and it will be used in real-time with a network of 500 reporting stations along the West Coast,” said Geoff Blewitt, professor in UNR’s Bureau of Mines and Geology and director of the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory. “This is intended to see abrupt changes in GPS station positions, such as from a great earthquake, though we have recorded movements using GPS in a magnitude 5.0 earthquake — the smallest earthquake ever recorded by GPS.”

The software processes information from satellite reporting stations to show changes in ground positions greater than 10 centimeters in real time, and processing the next day using better information on the GPS satellite orbits can be extremely accurate, calculating changes as small as one centimeter.

“This allows us to see large, rapid ground motions that can then be used to predict tsunamis,” he said.

The NASA monitoring network project runs along the Cascadia fault line that extends from California to Vancouver, Canada, and the San Andreas Fault in California. Its development is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. It is an augmentation of the global monitoring framework developed and maintained by Blewitt and his geodesy team at the university, which was funded by NASA and in concert with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

UNR has the largest GPS data-processing center in the world, which processes information from about 10,000 stations around the globe continuously, 24/7.

“The information is freely available to anyone on the Internet,” Blewitt said. “We have all GPS data going back to 1996 and are reprocessing all 15 million data files as new data streams come in — every 30 seconds — solving for tens of thousands of parameters at once. It enables real-time positioning for any users.”

For more information on Blewitt, visit www.nbmg.unr.edu/Staff/Blewitt.html. For Nevada Geodetic Laboratory information, visit http://geodesy.unr.edu/index.php. For the Nevada Geodetic Laboratory and geodetic information about the Tohoku earthquake, visit http://geodesy.unr.edu/index.php.
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