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GPS technology aids earthquake research

Scientists will be able to use global positioning technology at a new facility in North-East England to better understand and predict earthquakes.

A team of geophysicists at Newcastle University will maintain the site near Morpeth in Northumberland. It will let experts from around the world gauge movements in the Earth’s crust from anywhere in the world via the internet.

The system works by taking measurements every 15 seconds between a circular antenna and satellites orbiting the earth. The antenna is firmly fixed in a 4.5 tonne slab of Yorkshire sandstone, which is embedded three metres into the earth. The information is automatically downloaded into a computer, which quickly checks the data for accuracy before transmitting it to the International GPS service.

The site is the latest in a network of 200 across the world transmitting data on a regular basis. The highly accurate data could also help weather forecasts for the North East.
Distances between the antenna and the GPS satellites appear longer when there is water vapour in the atmosphere, as it can take a greater period of time for signals to be transmitted.