New technology will soon be coming to Iowa that might help scientists forecast earthquakes. Raymond Anderson, a research geologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says they’re especially interested in learning more about little-known fault lines, like the one that likely caused the unusual earthquake near Chicago in February.

“No one really knows exactly why that earthquake occurred there,” Anderson says. “There’s a fault down there somewhere that nobody knows about.” Since 2004, scientists have been moving a string of 400 seismometers around the country as part of a study called EarthScope funded by the National Science Foundation. Anderson says some of those devices will be placed in Iowa.

He says, “They’ll be able to use that to get a better feeling for some of the deeper crustal structures and maybe they can figure out what’s going on with that.” The devices will be able to help create a 3-D view of North America and to more closely identify active local and regional earthquakes in the states where the seismometers are placed. This summer, a string of the high-tech devices will be placed in western Iowa.

“The whole structure will be buried and there’ll be a little communication tower at the top that will communicate with a central facility in New Mexico via cell phone technology, believe it or not,” Anderson says. Officials hope the data collected in Iowa will help to better identify regional fault lines, with the goal of learning the potential for earthquakes here in the Midwest and around the world.

By Jami Brinton, KCRG, Cedar Rapids