A Fiber Optic Cable Will Help Monitor the Arctic

fiber optic cableClimate change is posing new challenges to cities all over the world. Learn how this fiber optic cable can assist with essential scientific research.

Year after year temperatures have been rising in the Arctic. This has triggered a thawing in the icebergs, permafrost, and the degrading of various infrastructures. Scientists have turned to a fiber optic cable to help monitor these changes.

A program funded by the National Science Foundation, “Signals in the Soil,” seeks to monitor the defrosting soil in the Arctic. “Soils are complex ecosystems composed of organic matter, minerals, water, air, and billions of organisms.” The program has awarded Penn State a $1.2 million project to assist in monitoring the melting region.

A Plan for the Arctic

The northernmost cities in the United States are experiencing a degrading infrastructure due to the thawing permafrost. To properly monitor and assess the situation the Penn State research team lead by Professor Ming Xiao is planning to implement a fiber optic cable with the Alaskan city of Utqiaġvik. “The 1.5-kilometer cable — commonly used for internet and phone service — will be turned into a long line of vibration sensors to monitor the continuous thawing of the frozen soil, also known as permafrost.

Utilizing the Fiber Optic Cable

When a fiber cable breaks the operator must first pinpoint the location of the issue. To check a cable within a fiber optic infrastructure the cable-operator can send a series of light pulses to test for inconsistencies. This same theory is being applied to monitor the permafrost defrost.

The telecom cable will be used to collect seismic data with laser pulses in a technique called distributed acoustic sensing. This method will allow Professor Ming Xiao and her research team to monitor seismic interruptions within the soil. With this continuously collected data, the team will be able to detect permafrost temperature, various soil parameters, and seismic wave velocity. This research will inevitably expose essential patterns to help predict the behavior of future infrastructure thawing in the Arctic.

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Written by the Experts at GeoTel