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Ireland’s first underground seismic station is installed at Mitchelstown Cave

(26.07.2022) Earthquakes around the world will now be detected from Mitchelstown Cave, Co. Tipperary, thanks to the installation of a new seismic station 60 metres underground by Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) Irish National Seismic Network (INSN) staff members. The station at Mitchelstown Cave is one of nine seismic stations in Ireland but is the first to be installed underground.

The Geophysics Section of DIAS operates the Irish National Seismic Network, under a joint agreement with Geological Survey Ireland, a division of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications.

Mitchelstown Cave was chosen as a site for installing a permanent seismic station due to its location within the quiet Galtee-Vee valley, where the station is protected from seismic noise sources such as wind, rain and heavy road traffic.

Since its installation in May, the station has already detected earthquakes as far away as southern Peru and the Fiji Islands.

Speaking about the installation of the new seismic station, Dr Martin Möllhoff, Director of Seismic Networks at DIAS, said: “The addition of the new seismic station at Mitchelstown Cave will contribute greatly to our understanding of what lies beneath Ireland and the structure of the Earth as a whole. We received additional funding from Geological Survey Ireland with the aim of doubling the number of permanent seismic monitoring stations to 12 and we’re excited to start making this a reality.

“Since the beginning of 2022 we have detected eleven earthquakes in and around our shores – all of this information is fed back to our data centre at DIAS allowing us to understand the world beneath us. 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.”

Also commenting on the installation of the new seismic station at Mitchelstown Cave, Professor Chris Bean, Head of Geophysics at DIAS said: “Having a seismic station located deep underground within the quiet Galtee-Vee valley provides us with a unique opportunity to collect high quality data that is not adversely affected by human activity such as building sites and road and rail 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.

“Since 1980 the Irish National Seismic Network has worked 24/7, feeding real time data on local and global earthquakes to the international scientific and public safety communities. We are currently nearing completion of a total physical upgrade of the INSN, through a collaboration agreement with Geological Survey Ireland, which commenced in 2018.”

Koen Verbruggen, Director of Geological Survey Ireland, also welcomed the addition to the Irish National Seismic Network. “I would like to congratulate DIAS on the continued expansion of the network. The inclusion of Mitchelstown Cave will add a new dimension to the data and will be of great benefit to the science, our understanding of Ireland’s subsurface, and as a tool for science education.”

The Irish National Seismic Network (INSN) is operated by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) and co-funded by Geological Survey Ireland. For more information on seismic activity in Ireland, visit https://www.insn.ie. A map of the station network is displayed at: https://www.insn.ie/about.