Seismology is the study of seismic waves (shock waves) produced by earthquakes
or explosions. Instruments called seismometers detect, amplify and record the
movement of seismic waves. Seismic waves have been recorded at the Observatory
since 1962. From these records the location and intensity of earthquakes is determined.
The current seismological monitoring programme is run in close co-operation with
the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
The seismometer used at Valentia is a CMG-40T Broadband Seismometer.
The system consists of three sensors, to measure north-south, east-west
and vertical ground
motions. The strength of an earthquake is measured on a scale of numbers called
the Richter Scale.
Large earthquakes cause violent motions of the earth's surface. Sometimes
they cause huge sea waves, called tsunami that sweep up on land and add
to the general destruction.
Much of the energy released in an earthquake travels away from its epicentre
(the point on the surface above the focus) in waves called seismic waves. Near
the epicentre, vibrations of seismic waves can be very destructive but as they
spread out they diminish in amplitude. These waves are propagated to all parts
of the earth following paths through the body of the earth itself and around
There are four elementary types of seismic waves, each with its own characteristics
as regards velocity and type of motion. These characteristics depend on the
path traversed i.e. whether the waves come through the body of the earth
its surface and whether they acquire rigidity in the transmitting medium
or not. Two wave types, compressional and transverse, penetrate the earth's
Love and Raleigh waves are two wave types restricted to surface propagation
Three characteristics of seismic waves deserve special attention, the velocity
of the wave, the motion of the earth's particle and the appearance of the
wave types. The velocities or their equivalent travel times are important
they form the basis of seismological tables from which the distance between
the epicentre and the seismometer is determined. The motion of the earth's
is used to compute the azimuth of the epicentre from the seismometer and
also furnishes a means of identifying wave types. The appearance of various
types and their period and amplitude, are used to identify the wave type.
Seismic data are supplied by the Observatory to research bodies on request.
Phase data are forwarded on a regular basis to the International Seismological
Centre, Newbury, England, where they are made available to seismologists
world-wide and are included in their publications