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Webinar #7: Historical Seismograms: Preserving an Endangered Species (November 2015)

Emile Okal

November 2015


Speaker: Professor Emile Okal

Department of Geological Sciences at Northwestern University, Evanston, USAProfile


The youth of seismology as a science, compared to the typical duration of seismic cycles, results in a relative scarcity of records of large earthquakes available for processing by modern analytical techniques, which in turn makes archived datasets of historical seismograms extremely valuable in order to enhance our understanding of the occurrence of large, destructive earthquakes. Unfortunately, the value of these datasets is not always perceived adequately by decision-making administrators, which has resulted in the destruction (or last-minute salvage) of irreplaceable datasets.

We present a quick review of the nature of the datasets of seismological archives, and of specific algorithms allowing their use for the modern retrieval of the source characteristics of the relevant earthquakes. We then describe protocols for the transfer of analog datasets to digital support, including by contact-less photography when the poor physical state of the records prevents the use of mechanical scanners.

Finally, we give some worldwide examples of existing collections, and of successful programs of digital archiving of these valuable datasets.