A seismometer is an instrument that is used to detect motion within the earth caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Connected with a timing and a recording device, the seismometer was originally made to listen out for vibrations in the ground due to moving tectonic plates; however, due to their sensitivity, they can be used to detect any large motion that causes vibrations. For instance, it can record underwater eruptions, the sound of helicopters taking flight or even explosions. Environmental scientists are now utilizing seismometers to track climate change.
Engulfing the nation of Andorra, the Pyrénées mountains are home to an underground laboratory with a single seismic station that tracks the movement of the world around it. A few years ago, Jordi Diaz and his team came across an unidentifiable signal through the seismometer. With further experiments and observations of the signal, they realized that the seismometer was picking sounds of the Aragón river flowing above the underground laboratory. Knowing that the Aragón river is fed by melting snow, the team tracked certain thawing episodes and started recognizing patterns. During the central hours of the day when the snow had melted down towards the river, they would hear strong sounds due to the large discharge from the melted ice. They concluded that they could track the behavior of the melting snow across several years with remarkable precision.
The identification of this use of seismometers is significant as environmental scientists would be able to detect natural disasters before they cause mass destruction. The formation of hurricanes or cyclones could be detected with loud seismic signals produced. In addition to that, it can be used to track climate change by hearing the cracking of ice sheets and the growth of icy crevasses as they break into the oceans.