Satellite project to predict earthquakes will 'help save lives'

 

Moscow

Scientists have launched a project that they hope could one day help save thousands of lives by predicting when and where earthquakes will happen. A group of British and Russian scientists signed an agreement to work together on the project earlier this week in Moscow.

The TwinSat project involves the launch of two satellites – one of which they say is about the size of an old television set and the other smaller than a shoebox – which will orbit the earth a few hundred miles apart.

Data from the satellites will be collated with data from the ground as the scientists try to understand what natural warnings are given prior to earthquakes.

"As stress builds up in the Earth prior to an earthquake, subtle electromagnetic signals are released that can be read from the upper atmosphere," said Professor Alan Smith, Director of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College, London, who was in Moscow this week to launch the project.

"We want to try to work out how these signals differ from all the other things that are present at any given time." The two linked satellites will monitor zones with high seismic and volcanic activity, such as Iceland and the Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east of Russia. The project is being run by a team of British and Russian scientists and was heralded "a new milestone in UK-Russia space collaboration" by Professor Smith.

Professor Vitaly Chmyrev, of the Institute of Physics of the Earth in Moscow, one of the Russian partners, said that the possibilities for progress in earthquake research were extremely exciting. He said that the project will "benefit both Russian and British science in addition to making the Earth a safer place".

Professor Chmyrev noted that in the days leading up to the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year, satellites picked up electromagnetic signals from the area, but they were only analysed afterwards. This project could be a huge step towards understanding how to read these signals. "Just imagine if we could have accurately predicted the Haiti earthquake a few weeks before," said Professor Chmyrev. "Or if we had predicted the Icelandic volcano eruption that paralysed transport routes for weeks. The potential human and economic benefits are enormous."

Peter Sammonds, Professor of Geophysics at UCL and another member of the project team, said that because the satellites were so small, the technology was relatively cheap. "These satellites are absolutely incredible, you can almost hold them in the palm of your hand," he said. "If the project progresses as we want it to, we'll be able to send up several more of them to increase coverage."

The first satellite launch is planned for 2015, and the team is confident that the project could change the way we understand earthquakes. "It wasn't long ago that if you said there was a chance of predicting earthquakes, people would say you were a charlatan, and not a real scientist," said Professor Chmyrev. "But science moves quickly and I'm absolutely certain that sooner or later we'll be able to make very accurate predictions."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Polish Speaking Buying Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Superb opportunity for a BUYING...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...

Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project