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Fiber-optic cables capture thunderquake rumbles

12/12/2019

Matt Carroll
December 11, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Underground fiber-optic cables, like those that connect the world through phone and internet service, hold untapped potential for monitoring severe weather, according to scientists at Penn State.

Researchers turned miles of cables under the University Park campus into thousands of virtual sensors capable of detecting tiny seismic events caused by thunder echoing down from the sky during a storm in April.

“Severe weather has strong interactions with the ground, but we haven’t had the capability to study the coupling between the atmosphere and the solid Earth,” said Tieyuan Zhu, assistant professor of geophysics at Penn State and lead author on the study. “With this new technology, we can utilize existing fiber-optics networks to clearly see how thunderstorm energy passed through campus.” More 

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