Editor’s note: In many ways, we are all participants in a grand scientific endeavor that’s on the cusp of helping humankind prepare for some of the most destructive natural hazards–earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The fields of seismology, geodesy, and surveying have realigned in pursuit of much-sought-after early-warning capabilities. The same infrastructure that comprises the active component of the geodetic reference frameworks we use is contributing to these essential plate tectonics and volcanic studies.
Resources include continuously operating GNSS (GPS plus other navigation satellite systems) networks like the CORS of the National Geodetic Survey, scientific networks like the 1,100+ station array of the Plate Boundary Observatory, and numerous other public and private real-time networks (RTN). All are feeding observations to scientists from more than 10,000 stations in the U.S. alone and many more worldwide round-the-clock–every second.
Scientific agencies and academia have recently collaborated to implement early warning systems, using arrays of large-motion sensors (seismic), strain gauges, and other sensors. Science, industry, and geospatial professionals realizing benefits from such infrastructure have greatly enhanced the rate at which networks of sensors have been deployed and their data incorporated.
This is the first installment in a new series to introduce you to the personalities and activities of the dedicated folks in the scientific and technical community who are employing all manner of surveying and geodesy methods and systems in support of these crucial initiatives.
Ken Hudnut, science advisor for risk reduction at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is responsible “for getting a very broad range of USGS science used for societally relevant applications,” he says.
He used to conduct research and development with real-time GPS within USGS’s earthquake program, one of several programs in the agency’s Natural Hazards Mission Area. That office is also responsible for hazards from volcanoes and landslides and shares responsibilities with other agencies for coastal and flooding hazards. USGS uses GNSS for hazards response in many ways, Hudnut says.