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7.4.11: The Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network

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    Although this network is operated by the University of Washington, it is discussed in this chapter because most of its funding comes from the federal government. A smoked-paper seismograph was installed in Science Hall on the University of Washington campus in 1906, the first seismograph in either Washington or Oregon. Various faculty members in the Department of Geology transmitted earthquake information to the federal government (Weather Service). The seismograph was moved, along with the rest of the Department of Geology, to Johnson Hall in 1930.


    In 1948, a Finnish seismologist, Eijo Vesanen, was hired to upgrade the seismograph; he was still building the new seismograph when the Puget Sound Earthquake struck in 1949. Vesanen decided to return to Finland, and he was replaced by Frank Neumann, the recently retired chief of the Seismology Branch of the Coast and Geodetic Survey. Neumann recognized that the Johnson Hall site on glacial sediments was a poor substitute for a site on bedrock, and in 1958, using university funds, he established bedrock sites at Longmire, in Mount Rainier National Park, and Tumwater, near Olympia.


    When the national decision was made to establish the WWSSN network of seismograph stations to monitor nuclear testing by the Soviet Union, Neumann was successful in getting a grant from the Coast and Geodetic Survey to establish a WWSSN station at Longmire. The new station began functioning in 1962, with Park Service personnel changing the records and mailing them weekly to the Department of Geology. However, the grant required that the responsible seismologist hold a Ph.D. degree, which Neumann did not have. Norm Rasmussen, with an MS in geology, was hired as a technician until a permanent replacement for Neumann could be found.


    Bob Crosson arrived in 1966 as the university was applying successfully to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a Science Development Grant. The seismology part of this grant went to the newly established geophysics program. Funding became available in the late 1960s, and Crosson began to build the network, obtaining additional grants from NSF to do so. By the end of 1970, there were five stations transmitting data electronically to the University of Washington; by the end of 1979, there were twenty-three stations in western Washington. The first scientific paper describing the seismicity of western Washington based on network data was published by Crosson in 1972.


    The NSF science development grant was not intended to be a permanent source of funding for the network. After the USGS took over responsibility for earthquakes from the Department of Commerce, funding the Washington network shifted to USGS, along with other networks in the western United States. A separate USGS network at Hanford Nuclear Reservation began locating earthquakes in 1970; in 1975, this network began transmitting data directly to the University of Washington, as did the Jesuit station at Gonzaga University. Another network was set up around Mt. St. Helens after it erupted in 1980; this network was also folded into the Washington network at Seattle. The eastern Washington and western Washington networks were merged in the 1980s.


    In Oregon, a seismograph station was built at Corvallis in 1950. This was replaced by a WWSSN station in 1962 that is now part of the IRIS network. The University of Oregon established several stations in the early 1990s. At the present time, Oregon and Washington are covered by the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network, although station density in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington is low.

    7.4.11: The Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Robert S. Yeats via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.