Canterbury University Seismograph Project (CUSP)

Earthquakes - prediction, detection, effects and protection from - problems which are actively researched in Civil Engineering. Here at Canterbury the Geomechanics group have created CUSP (Canterbury University Seismograph Project) accelerograph.

Additional Information

In late 2003 the South Island of New Zealand has experienced several earthquakes, with CUSP recording its the first real earthquake data - an M4.9 event 40 km north-east of Christchurch. This after months of testing with artificial earthquakes on the shaking table.

The CUSP accelerograph was developed by PhD candidate Hamish Avery and Technical Officer Peter Coursey, guided by John Berrill and Mike Dewe (Electrical/IT). The project was motivated by the imminent rupture (in a geological time frame) of the Alpine Fault. The Internet based instrument provides easy maintenance and retrieval of data and uses cheap micro-machined accelerometers developed for triggering car air bags.

The M4.9 September 30th 2003 earthquake was not world shaking; but it did provide a good test of the sensitivity of the CUSP instrument and its ability to detect events just above the noise level. This accelerograph is the first to be installed in the Canterbury Network and is one of a batch of 20 instruments under construction in the Department. Once this batch is complete, production will be taken over by Canterbury Seismic Instruments Ltd, a joint venture company between the University and local businesspeople, set up to commercialise the accelerograph.

The Geomechanics Group plans to install a network of about 60 instruments across the central South Island, in collaboration with GeoNet, with three principal aims and components:

  1. A dense array of about 20 instruments near Cass, to record details of the rupture mechanism of earthquakes on the Alpine Fault or other regional faults. Design and installation of this array comprises the doctoral project of Caroline François.
  2. A network of 20 to 30 instruments spread over the region, to observe regional attenuation, with emphasis on wave guiding effects in the sediments of the Canterbury Plains.
  3. A local network across the city of Christchurch, to study site effects because of the variable sedimentary structure beneath the city.

The research has been supported by Technology NZ, The Mason Trust, the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, the University of Canterbury and by the EQC; their help is gratefully acknowledged. Further information may be obtained from John Berrill.

For production information please visit the website of Canterbury Seismic Instruments Ltd (CSI), the company which is commercialising CUSP accelerograph systems.