Earthquakes, floods, sea-level rise and sudden shifts in river courses threaten many of the 150 million Bangladeshis living in the low-lying Brahmaputra River delta. Scientists from Lamont-Doherty, Dhaka University and other institutions have begun a five-year project to understand the hazards and the possible hidden links among them. Lamont geophysicist Michael Steckler keeps us up to date on the work.
Geohazards in Bangladesh
Installing GPS in Myanmar to study earthquakes
Back in February, members of our group went to Bangladesh to install equipment along the Western side of our large geophysical transect across the IndoBurman subduction zone (red triangles on the map). This is the world’s only subduction zone that is entirely on land. Because of this fact and because of its slow rate of motion, it is often neglected or thought to not be active. However, we believe it is active and that there is a significant earthquake hazard in this densely populated region. Thus, we developed this large project to study it using many geophysical and geologic tools.
We are now in the next stage of installing equipment. I am now in Myanmar to install five GPS stations along the Eastern side of the transect (white circles). Once again, Keith Williams, an engineer with UNAVCO is with me to provide support. The seismic team, this time from the University of Missouri and Louisiana State University will arrive in about a week to start their work installing seismometers at the green triangles. Keith and I will start installing GPS stations going from West to East along the transect. The seismic team will go East to West and we will cross paths and meet them later in the trip.
We have arrived in the Myanmar capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on the last day of a major Buddhist holiday, the Thadingyut festival. While the offices of our
partners, the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology (DMH), are closed, stores are still open so we shopped for a few things, rested from the long flights and visited the Uppatasanti Pagoda. It is a copy of the famous pagoda in the capital, Yangon, but a foot shorter out of respect for the original.
The following day, we were able to work with our partners at DMH on preparations for the fieldwork. We settled the bills for the things they bought for our work, checked our shipped equipment, got supplies, such as a sledge hammer, pieces to make a post pounder, locks and chains to secure the
GPS, SIM cards for the modems in the GPSs, and a ladder. Along the way we drove on one of the amazingly wide roads in Nay Pyi Taw. There are 10 lanes in each direction, but we never saw more than about a half dozen cars in front of us. The new capital, only opened in 2006, is built on a huge scale and very spread out. As the center of the government, it now has over 900,000 people, but is not yet a vibrant city.
The GPS devices that we will install are a
lot fancier than the ones in your phone or car. They can measure positions to 2 millimeters, about 1/12 of an inch. We will fix them securely to the ground, and over the years, we will be able to see the plates moving and strain building up towards earthquakes.
After shopping, we sent the 12 foot steel rods for building the monuments, the batteries and the ladder off to be transported to our basecamp by bus. Today, we finished our preparations, rewiring the GPS and welding the post
pounder to help drive the rods into the ground. Tomorrow we start early in the morning for Kale or Kalay, our initial base of operations, a 12 hour drive away. The five GPS devices will be installed at a mixture of DMH offices and Buddhist monasteries.