Ireland’s first underground seismic station installed in Tipperary

26 Jul 2022

From left: INSN technical officer Dr David Craig, Mitchelstown Cave owner John English and INSN data analyst James Grannell. Image: Michael O'Sullivan

The station in Mitchelstown Cave is protected from noise pollution such as wind and human activity, allowing it to detect Ireland’s smallest earthquakes.

A new seismic station has been installed 60 metres underground in Co Tipperary to detect earthquakes around the world.

The new site at Mitchelstown Cave is one of nine seismic stations in Ireland, but is the first to be installed underground.

The cave is in the quiet Galtee Vee Valley near the border between Tipperary, Cork and Limerick. Here, the station is protected from seismic noise sources such as wind, rain and heavy road traffic.

The station was installed in May by members of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) and the Irish National Seismic Network (INSN). Since then, the station has detected earthquakes as far away as southern Peru and Fiji.

DIAS head of geophysics Prof Chris Bean said the station’s quiet location allows it to collect high quality data that is “not adversely affected by human activity” such as building sites and road traffic.

“This allows us to detect Ireland’s smallest earthquakes on our seismic network, and to better understand the forces at play beneath our feet,” Bean said.

DIAS director of seismic networks Dr Martin Möllhoff added that the underground station will help the institute understand “what lies beneath Ireland and the structure of the Earth as a whole”.

Additional funding has been received from Geological Survey Ireland, which is a division of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, to help double the number of permanent seismic monitoring stations to 12.

“Since the beginning of 2022, we have detected 11 earthquakes in and around our shores,” Möllhoff said. “Most people think there are no earthquakes in Ireland but there are actually smaller earthquakes happening all the time.

“It is important that we are aware that, even though we may not feel it, the world is moving slowly beneath us all the time.”

The geophysics section of DIAS operates the INSN under a joint agreement with Geological Survey Ireland. Bean said a “total physical upgrade” of the INSN is nearing completion through the collaboration agreement with Geological Survey Ireland.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic