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KODIAK, Alaska (AP) — Researchers from Cornell University plan to explore why some areas along the Alaskan-Aleutian subduction zone are hotbeds for earthquakes, while others are relatively quiet.

The researchers this week are placing underwater sensors in 75 locations around the island and west of it, The Kodiak Daily Mirror reported .

Places like the Shumagin Islands and Sand Point show no history of large earthquakes, unlike the Kodiak region and the far western Aleutian Islands. But Geoffrey Abers, a Cornell professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, said the two areas are geologically similar.

“The fundamental research question is, why do you get giant earthquakes in some places, and not in others?” Abers said.

The project is called the Alaska Amphibious Community Seismic Experiment, funded by the National Science Foundation. It’s a 15-month research project by scientists from Cornell, Columbia University, Colgate University, the University of Washington, the University of Southern California and others.

Researchers will place 105 seismometers under water to measure the velocity of the plates’ movement in various directions. The machines are so sensitive that they could pick up the sound of someone walking around from 50 feet (15 meters) away, or an earthquake over a 6 magnitude anywhere on the planet, Abers said.

The sensors were placed in Akhiok, Larsen Bay, Uyak Bay, Anvil Lake and other areas.

“Every corner of Kodiak Island, pretty much,” Abers said.

All of the data collected in the experiment will be open and available for study.

“Anybody can work on this data as soon as it comes out of the ground,” Abers said.


Information from: Kodiak (Alaska) Daily Mirror,