Penn State DuBois professor captures data from Virginia earthquake

August 30, 2011

Professor of Mathematics and Geosciences Richard Brazier said a device he has placed on campus at Penn State DuBois captured seismic data from the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked the east coast Aug. 23. The seismometer, Brazier said, was installed in the basement of Symmco House, the campus' administrative building, late last year. It is intended to monitor and record earthquakes and other seismic activity for geophysicists to study. The collected data are transmitted by satellite to the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), where anyone can view the seismograms online at any time.

Originating in rural Mineral, Va., the quake was felt as far away as New York and Connecticut, and was felt by many on campus at Penn State DuBois.

"My desk began to shake, and my external hard drive started hopping across the top of my desk," said Debbie Gill, a Spanish professor who was in her office in the Swift Building when the shockwaves went across campus. "I didn't know if I should stay put, get out of the building, or what I should do. Then it was over."

What was felt on campus, and in DuBois and the surrounding area, lasted for less than a minute, according to Brazier's data. However, the earthquake reached so far from its epicenter that it gave many people in usually quiet seismic areas their first experience with an earthquake. Brazier said the seismic waves spread so far because the activity happened so close the earth's surface.

Brazier explained what he deciphered from the information on the seismometer's visible report, saying, "You can clearly see three types of waves. The first or primary wave at about 55 seconds; the secondary wave's arrival at 100 seconds; and finally the surface wave which is the wave we all felt around 140 seconds. It’s a fairly large event but the reason we all felt it so far away is that it is very shallow, around one kilometer in depth."

To view the data collected from the seismometer at Penn State DuBois, visit


  • The visual report, produced by the seismometer at Penn State DuBois, shows the seismic activity of the Aug. 23 Virginia earthquake as felt on campus.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 30, 2011