July 22, 2013
Help the USGS record a building implosion!
Posted by Austin Elliott
We all love watching the coordinated kabooms and dusty disappearance of a defunct building imploding in demolition, right? Heck, in Las Vegas it’s a spectacular ritual, touted flamboyantly as a tourist draw.
Well the thunderous collapses of these buildings don’t merely satisfy our childish, sand-castle-smashing destructive tendencies; they radiate rumbling seismic waves through the soil and deep into the crust beneath them, “echoing” off of layers and boundaries hidden in the subsurface to bounce back up like sonar and reveal what’s down there via vibration of sensitive instruments.
This summer the USGS has teamed up with destructomatic Cal State East Bay to study the impending implosion of an old and–appropriately enough–seismically unfit university building that sits virtually atop the Hayward fault. The building is Warren Hall, the 12 (? more?) -story administrative building that looms iconically above any other in the town of Hayward. Part of the reason for this looming appearance is its position at the crest of the Hayward fault scarp, just asking for violently lurching doom during the impending earthquake. It is for this reason that it is being dismantled.
But the world comes full circle: Because the collapse of such a large building generates quite a seismic signal, the USGS has leapt at the opportunity to document a known seismic source on instruments throughout the region, and is working on the installation of a huge number of additional sensors to capture minute details of the geological structure surrounding the Hayward fault at this latitude.
For this purpose they’re seeking volunteers: both 1) willing field workers from the region who’d like to go door to door installing geophones, and 2) local residents who are willing to have a seismic sensor implanted in their front/back yard for a few days in August when the implosion takes place. I’ve volunteered myself to participate in the hoofing field work, although my current schedule leaves me a little distant from the region until the last minute. If you’re interested in either role, the volunteer form is still up! They’re looking for people to help out in the coming weeks, including the week of August 12 when the seismometers will be installed.
If I get/have the chance to help out I’ll be sure to give you the full report.