Google's submarine cables have a new function: detect earthquakes and tsunamis


Google also helps with life-saving research, and it seems that its undersea cables could very soon warn of earthquakes or tsunamis with epicenter in the ocean.

At this point no one is going to discover Google and its infinite research and development projects, some as a bottomless pit of wasted resources and others with much more tangible, interesting and conscious objectives like the last one about its submarine cables.

And it is that yes friends, as the companions of The Verge told us a few days ago, it seems that Google wants its undersea cables to do more than just transport data at the speed of light around the planet, tracking tsunamis and earthquakes that may occur on the high seas.

Submarine cable

What if Google makes submarine cables also save lives?

Anyway, to contextualize and be honest, the truth is that the research is not properly Google but Professor Zhongwen Zhan, who started its tests during 2020 to get one of Google's fiber optic cables to be able to successfully detect some nearby earthquakes thanks to the distortions that occurred in the light pulses that carry data along the cable itself.

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Submarine cables to anticipate earthquakes and save lives ... Well, we still have to end up thanking Google in the future!

The thing promises, and is that this Professor of Geophysics at the California Institute of Technology has dared to publish the research in the prestigious magazine Science, stating that it is possible "Find a less expensive way to cover the entire ocean with geophysical sensors" Thanks to the telecommunications infrastructure that is already deployed around the planet.

The idea is take full advantage of the functionality of fiber optic cables, and do it without interfering with its main functions by taking advantage of the light signals that carry data and their orientation, which drifts when an earthquake occurs allowing Google to detect those variations and correct them automatically.

These corrections are precisely the data that Google will share, with the changes of "State of polarization" of light that can be used by seismologists to study earthquakes and possible associated tsunamis.

A Google datacenter

This is the inside of a Google data center.

From Google they claim to be delighted with the possibility of collaborating in projects of this caliber that promise to help the world, also announcing that they would continue to develop this technology together with Zhan:

We are honored and excited to be partnering with the optical, subsea and seismic research communities to utilize our entire cable infrastructure for greater societal benefits.

The truth is that the vast majority of seismographs used by earthquake researchers are on the ground, so This approach is very novel and differential to be able to detect and study more in depth earthquakes produced in the high seas, as well as its consequences in the form of large waves or tsunamis.

What's more, it is possible to do it without installing any additional device, as undersea cables are already crossing the oceans to interconnect the world, and Zhan and his team have shown that they can document up to 20 moderate-scale earthquakes using just the wire Curie of 10,500 kilometers that Google has spread between Los Angeles and Chile, and the variations of its light pulses.

We hope that this new approach can really provide people with a better chance of detecting those events early on, so people have more time to react. It is a perfectly safe way to take advantage of existing infrastructures to do something good for society and science. Zhongwen Zhan.

Furthermore, in the study it appears that it is also possible to detect large swells caused by storms, so the possibilities are much greater still and could even protect ships on the high seas or coastal populations.

Obviously, there is a lot of work ahead before this development can materialize around the world, although everything achieved to date is very promising and certainly cables are prepared to send warnings from the middle of the ocean much faster than any other device ...

We still have Google many lives to thank in the future, so let's hope this investigation moves forward!

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Related topics: Google, Technology