Seismic sensors to help scientists learn from 2014 Napa Valley Earthquake

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- The second anniversary of the Napa Valley Earthquake is next week and scientists are still trying to learn as much as they can about a quake that was much more destructive than expected, given its size.

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The new experiment will roll out in two phases. First scientists will put seismic sensors across the Napa Valley and then they will go around the area and trigger mini quakes to see how the earth responds in hundreds of locations.
A seismic sensor that's just a bit bigger than a beer can will be key to finding out why the 2014 Napa Valley Earthquake was as destructive as it was. And scientists are about to deploy 900 of them in yards up and down the Napa Valley.

"Now we're looking at the entire basin and we want to know the depth of the basin," said Rufus Catchings with the U.S. Geological Survey. "We want to know the velocity or the type of materials beneath the basin."

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It's all part of a large experiment conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in partnership with California State University East Bay.

The goal is to find out why the earth shook the way it did in Napa that August morning in 2014, then apply that knowledge to how buildings are constructed and retrofitted going forward in an effort to minimize damage and injuries next time.

This isn't the first time the U.S. Geological Survey has put sensors in this area. They did it two years ago right after the quake. They distributed 600 of them along the 12 kilometer rupture with surprising results. They discovered the fault system was 25 times bigger than they thought.

"If you include the Calaveras as well as this fault system as well as the fault system to the north, they appear to all be connected, it's about 300 kilometers long," said Catchings. "It's possible it could generate a much larger earthquake."

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Luther Strayer with Cal State East Bay adds, "This valley here is full of sediment, it's probably pretty soft. And when that stuff gets shook, it's like when you shake granny's Jell-O mold. That stuff gets going on its own. And that's what happens here."

David Graves lost a chimney and his home sustained other damage two years ago.

"Our house was built in the 1890s but it has a modern foundation," he said.

Now they will host one of the sensors in their back yard.

"I love the science aspect of it," he said. "But I also love the fact that we can learn more about what happened, why it happened, and we can perhaps help other parts of the Bay Area what might happen in case of another earthquake.

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