Earthquake monitoring through the COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Wed May 20 2020 2:00 PM

In earlier articles, we let you know how we are monitoring New Zealand’s geohazards through the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we’re sharing a bit more about how we’re keeping an eye on earthquakes around the country.

In 2018, GNS Science opened the 24/7 National Geohazards Monitoring Centre (NGMC) to help keep an eye on New Zealand’s four main geological hazards – earthquakes, tsunami, landslides, and our volcanoes.

In the centre, teams of geohazard analysts work around the clock to locate and review every earthquake that registers in New Zealand (even the overseas ones!).

Staff in the NGMC keeping an eye on New Zealand's geohazards

Staff in the NGMC keeping an eye on New Zealand's geohazards

When an earthquake is registered on several of our instruments, our earthquake detector goes off and our geohazard analysts find the most accurate information, review it, and then publish details about the earthquake – its location, depth, and magnitude on our website and app.

This is an essential service and has been designed to operate continuously in the most challenging of circumstances.

The NGMC does this by:

• Putting additional measures in place to ensure the health and safety of its staff, including minimising interactions with people not routinely working in the centre during pandemics.

• Having the ability to monitor from multiple locations. In the rare event that it is not possible for us to be physically located in the NGMC, we can monitor the network from our other site in New Zealand. We also have an arrangement with Geoscience Australia to keep an eye on our earthquakes remotely if the need should arise.

• Using the cloud, data from GeoNet instruments is collected, processed, and made available to anyone, anywhere, at no cost. This free and open cloud-based data enables our science staff to analyse earthquakes from anywhere.

In addition to the initial earthquake reviews undertaken in the NGMC, earthquake monitoring is backed up by a full roster of seismic duty officers and seismology experts who are working from home currently.

Being supported by specialist geohazard science teams who can work from anywhere is how we have run responses through some of the biggest earthquakes in recent years. When a large or interesting earthquake happens outside of office hours, we rely on our teams to begin earthquake responses from home, so we are experienced in working remotely.

Should a large earthquake happen in New Zealand, rest assured that our teams are able to respond and get information out in the usual ways: website, social media and the GeoNet app.

Maintenance of our network through the COVID-19 pandemic is also seen as essential, so our Remote Infrastructure Management team has been out and about making sure that all our instruments are working as they should.

Our capability and commitment to continuously monitor New Zealand’s earthquakes continues. We’ll continue to publish data on our website and app and update you on social media of any significant events or changes.

We hope you are all safe and well, New Zealand.

You can read our previous stories on monitoring through the COVID-19 pandemic:

GeoNet’s remote monitoring capability during COVID-19

Monitoring volcanoes during a pandemic

As always, the GeoNet project and our monitoring capability would not be possible without the support of our partners EQC, LINZ, MBIE, and NEMA.

Media contact: 021 574 541 or media@gns.cri.nz