By John Ostapkovich

AMBLER, Pa. (CBS) — A machine operated by Temple University to measure earthquakes and other seismic events is being reinstalled after it ran afoul of another (and much more common) natural phenomenon: rain.

“Water got into the drum system,” says Jonathan Nyquist, professor of geophysics and chairman of Temple University’s department of earth and environmental science as he shows reporters a broadband seismometer that was installed two years ago on the university’s Ambler campus, in a meter-deep vault designed to protect it from the elements.

seismometer Temple University Will Reinstall Its Waterlogged Ambler Seismometer

(Little larger than a bowling ball, the seismometer detects earth tremors and transmits the results via a datalink. Photo provided)

“They said, ‘Oh, gee, the seismograph’s acting a little strange. Would you go check on it, John?’  So I go out there, I pop it open, there’s water to the top of the drum.  The seismograph is completely under water.”

But fortunately it was not ruined.  Better drainage will be part of the reinstallation project.

This device is in the Lamont-Doherty seismograph network.  When working, this device is part of an East Coast quake measuring network.  That, says Nyquist, hugely expands its contribution.

“For example, if you only have one seismograph, it picks up vibrations but it has no directional sensitivity.  It doesn’t know where (the earthquake) came from,” Nyquist explains.  “Also, it doesn’t know how big it was.  Was it a big one far away or a small one nearby?  And also, you could have local noise sources — say, a quarry blast.  You want to see if this was picked up by many seismographs.”

Prof. Nyquist says Temple University pays the cost of the seismometer because government money is so tight.

Top Content On CBSPhilly

Watch & Listen LIVE