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Eavesdropping on 'whispers' to decipher Earth's language

Listening to earthquake “whispers” are giving University of Calgary researchers the inside scoop on the earth’s core.

Listening to earthquake “whispers” are giving University of Calgary researchers the inside scoop on the earth’s core.


Professor Dave Eaton has co-authored a paper published in the May edition of the Journal of Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. By observing distant earthquakes, he is able to measure seismic wave speed at the top of the Earth’s core.


Analyzing the wave speeds gives Eaton and co-author Catrina Alexandrakis, U of C PhD student, a good idea of what materials are making up the Earth’s core.


The research method is comparable to hearing a conversation across a whispering gallery. Although it is not the first time the method has been used, Eaton and Alexandrakis are using the most definitive research method to date.


Forty-four faint signals resulting from earthquakes across the globe were analyzed using a digital processing approach. The resulting sound speed measurements at the top of the Earth’s core is incredibly accurate.


The team has determined that the earth’s core is a mixture of solid and liquid material. Molten iron, nickel and as of yet unknown lighter elements such as sulfur or carbon make up this inaccessible region.


Using their results, laboratories simulating core composition will be able to better determine their research methods.


Beyond “listening” to earthquakes, Eaton is also a well-respected professor. U of C geology grad Jeff Kriz believes that “it can be much more rewarding learning from leaders in the field.”


According to Kriz, The U of C is one of the top geoscience schools due to the cutting edge research and resulting respect earned by its faculty.

 
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