Chilean Quake Shakes Southwest Virginia

Earthquakes worldwide affect well's water level

By Sharon Donnell
|  Wednesday, Mar 3, 2010  |  Updated 2:01 PM EDT
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Chilean Quake Shakes Southwest Virginia

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Water dropped almost two feet in response to the quake, but it wasn't just any well -- it was the Christiansburg Well, monitored by the U.S Geological Survey.

The well is something of a superstar in scientific circles. Something about the geology of southwest Virginia makes it especially receptive to seismic vibrations, according to hydrologist David Nelms.

So what makes the Christiansburg Well so sensitive? "Good question. Nobody really knows. It's been studied since the big earthquakes in Alaska in the 60's," Nelms told WWBT-TV in January, after the Haiti earthquake.

The Caribbean quake’s magnitude of 7 was not as powerful as the Chile quake, so it caused only a one foot change in the well, but it was felt within 15 minutes and the oscillation lasted two hours.

In contrast, the devastating 9.0 quake in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sumatra in 2004 caused the well to react three times as much as it did after the Haiti temblor on Jan. 12.

The Christiansburg well is 450 feet deep and it is so sensitive, its water will move up and down in response to a 6.0 earthquake or stronger, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Basic monitoring of groundwater levels not only provides information on current hydrologic conditions but shows just how connected distant places can be," Nelms told NBCWashington.com. "Seismic waves generated by large earthquakes can travel great distances in a short amount of time." 

You can monitor the water level at the Christiansburg well in real time by clicking here.
 
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