Alaska Communications is allowing researchers to use its submarine cables to detect earthquakes.

The Alaskan telco 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 submarine fiber optic cable.

University researchers have attached a distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) interrogator to equipment at Alaska Comm’s landing station in Florence, Oregon, which uses a beam of light inside the fiber to analyze seismic activity and report data back to the research team.

“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 University of Michigan Assistant Professor Ƶack 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.”

Spica and fellow researchers published a proof of concept study for using fiber to detect seismic activity last year.

Google has also conducted tests around using its submarine cable infrastructure to detect earthquakes, while researchers in Antarctica have tested using fiber buried in the ice to detect movement and deformation of ice amid climate change and detect small earthquakes in the region.

“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 the University of Michigan in gaining important insights about earthquakes and tsunamis.”

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