Many hazards in the Arctic are identified and tracked for understanding, mitigation, and modeling. Academic units at UAF focus particularly on earthquakes, permafrost, avalanches and mudslides.
For more than 30 years the Alaska Earthquake Center has been charged at the state and federal level with identifying and communicating earthquake hazards to public officials, industry, and private citizens. This mission is achieved, in part, by operating a network of 250 multi-sensor monitoring stations across the state. This sensor network, combined with in-house research and operations, provides real-time situational awareness of anything that shakes the ground—earthquakes, explosions, landslides, volcanoes, etc. Increasingly this network is augmented with additional capabilities including weather stations, infrasound, soil temperature, and web cameras. The center employs a staff of 20+ people with expertise spanning field engineering, IT and networking, software development, geophysics, and public communications. Current services to DoD include:
- Real-time earthquake shaking assessments to guide emergency response and engineering decisions, applicable to all facilities in-state
- Dedicated on-site seismic monitoring of the Ft. Greely complex, supported by the Missile Defense Agency
- Tsunami hazard assessments that include coastal facilities such as Coast Guard Base Kodiak
- Seismic array analysis R&D, supported by Air Force Technical Applications Center
- Infrasound data collection and assessment, supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency
- Development of training scenarios for several Alaska bases
- Enhanced weather observations to the Air Force from the 78 AON-USArray meteorological sites
- Seismic monitoring data for the North Pacific, used by the Air Force Technical Applications Center
The Alaska Volcano Observatory’s (AVO) mission is to warn local, state and federal officials and the public of potential volcanic hazards by forecasting and monitoring eruptions in Alaska. AVO consists of three partners: the U.S. Geological Survey, the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, and the UAF Geophysical Institute. Alaska is home to more than 54 historically active volcanoes spanning 1,500 miles across the mainland Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, and AVO responds to from one to three eruptions per year, some of them lasting years. To monitor these volcanoes AVO operates remote monitoring networks that include 189 seismic stations, 34 infrasound stations and 51 geodetic sites. In addition, AVO uses remote sensing data to detect volcanic emissions and other signs of unrest. AVO also investigates eruption histories, assesses volcanic hazards and conducts geochemistry and petrology research in support of the monitoring and forecasting mission. All of this information and research is processed and integrated to make rapid hazard assessments and notifications. The multidisciplinary volcano research and observatory ties make the Geophysical Institute a global leader in the field of volcanology.