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Fascination with earthquakes resonates across two decades

Fascination with earthquakes resonates across two decades

Published:10 March 2017

Mike Turnbull and his CQSRG colleagues are focused on monitoring Queensland earthquakes in the region from Bowen to the NSW border.

It was around 20 years ago that Mike Turnbull started to research earthquakes, following a long career in telecommunications.

His fascination is continuing and, despite reaching retirement age, he’s even looking to expand his network of monitoring stations.

Mike completed a Master of Applied Science (focusing on seismology) from CQUniversity in 2000 and set up the Central Queensland Seismology Research Group in 2002.

The CQSRG was established under the auspices of CQUniversity, with guidance from Visiting Professor Kevin McCue.

The Group has had a mostly continuous association with CQUniversity and the original founders have recently returned to adjunct academic roles, collaborating with Senior Lecturer in Geology Dr Andrew Hammond.

Mike says that, in the wake of the deadly Newcastle earthquake of 1989, Australia was awash with government-funded seismographs.

In subsequent years, as the older gear started to fail, Mike has been able to acquire units for refurbishment and redeployment.

He now has CQSRG stations set up at Gin Gin and Biggenden and also has access to data from the Geoscience Australia stations at Eidsvold, Roma and Charters Towers.

All of these stations are able to detect small earthquakes within a radius of a few hundred kilometres and larger earthquakes throughout Australia and even overseas.

CQSRG tends to focus on Queensland earthquakes in the region from Bowen to the NSW border and its latest report notes the big surge in the number and intensity of earthquakes detected in 2015 and 2016.

“We had some major earthquakes in recent years including the magnitude 5.8 Bowen event which is probably the second largest earthquake recorded on the east coast of Mainland Australia in modern times,” Mike says.

“In general, CQSRG only catalogues earthquake events that are detected by its seismic monitoring stations. However, in the event of significant local events that, for reasons of station downtime, are not recorded by CQSRG stations, locations are conducted by obtaining data from other agencies.”

Mike says CQSRG is privately funded at the moment but he would welcome financial support from individuals or organisations, as establishment and maintenance of monitoring stations is becoming more expensive.