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Earthquake sensors track devastating German flood

November 1, 2022

Seismometer data accurate as water level sensors while online

University of Göttingen researchers report that modified seismometers are able to sense the magnitude, velocity, and trajectory of a flood — up to 1.5 km (0.9 mi) away. The flood-detecting abilities of seismometers study was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Data from in-situ seismic sensors can supplement existing flood monitoring networks, established to provide early warning flood control districts and emergency management agencies with information to save lives and mitigate damage.

Scientists examined one hour of seismological data from a seismometer station near the town of Ahrweiler, Germany especially in relation to the timeline of the July, 2022 flood through the towns of Rech, Dernau, Walporzheim and Ahrweiler.

Researchers reconstructed the disaster up to moment the sensor lost power and the data stream abruptly ended. A number of mathematical models were combined to estimate the speed of the flood, extract information about the water level and the amount of debris.

The earthquake sensor data proved helpful since three existing water level stations in the valley were destroyed earlier in the flood.

Lead researcher Michael Dietze, faculty of geosciences and geography for the University of Göttingen said, “The current network of water level stations is not enough to be adequately prepared for future events.”