Monitoring Aftershocks in China

A scientist due to study the seismic activity near the Three Gorges Dam now turns to listening for the leftovers of the massive Sichuan earthquake

Aftershocks in China

USGS

Texas Tech geophysicist Hua-wei Zhou touched down in Beijing just 40 minutes before the devastating Sichuan province earthquake struck. He and his colleagues were planning to embark on a project to set up 60 seismometers designed to listen for mini-quakes at the Three Gorges reservoir.

But now those instruments will be used to register the aftershocks of the Sichuan event - the epicenter of which was just 250 miles away. They could give the scientists a detailed map of the structure of the Earth's crust in the area. This, in turn, could give them a better idea of how the Three Gorges Dam itself would hold up in the even of serious shaking. There's quite a bit at stake: 75 million people live downstream from the Dam.

Regarding the Sichuan quake, Zhou noted that it is a severe tragedy, but that it's hardly a worst-case scenario. "The situation could have been even worse considering that the city of Chengdu, with a population of 4 million, is just 60 miles away from the epicenter," Zhou said.