USGS seeks volunteers to help with new ground motion study

By David Jacobson, Temblor

Check your seismic hazard rank

Residents in Walnut Creek, as well as Concord and Pleasant Hill are being asked to assist the USGS in a new ground motion study. (Photo from


The science done at an organization like the USGS is often conducted by professionals with years of experience and degrees in the earth sciences. However, the USGS is currently asking for volunteers to assist with research in Walnut Creek, Concord, and Pleasant Hill. The USGS has a simple ask: host a temporary seismic station at your home or business.

Beginning next month, the USGS will start collecting data on very small earthquakes in central Contra Costa County. The hope is that data from small events could help predict how the ground will behave in large earthquakes. The seismic stations the USGS is asking volunteers to host will be in place for 1-3 years, during which the scientists will occasionally come out to visit and inspect the station.

This is a K2 seismograph identical to the ones which will be places in homes and businesses. They are about the size of a large shoebox and are often places in garages meaning they will be out of the way. (Photo from USGS).


Before people exclaim that they don’t want a large piece of government equipment on their property, the K2 seismograph is about the size of a large shoebox. Additionally, they are often placed in a garage or somewhere out of the way. So, they will not disturb life, and in the process, you will be helping important scientific research.

This research is part of a larger project by the USGS examining the effect of topographic highs and basins on seismic waves generated by earthquakes or manmade events such as explosions. While it is already known that topography can affect the behavior of seismic waves, this research will provide an even greater understanding, which could help in preparation for large earthquakes.

This Temblor map shows the significant hazard in Contra Costa County. The region is surrounded by large faults, and much of the area has a liquefaction hazard.


Contra Costa County is also an important area to study as the seismic hazard is extremely high. It is surrounded by faults and large portions of it lie in a basin. Because of these factors, it has a Temblor Hazard Rank of 88. Additionally, several places have a moderate liquefaction hazard, which is effected by seismic wave propagation. Lastly, the Global Earthquake Activity Rate (GEAR) model, which is available in Temblor, forecasts that a M=6.75-7.0 is likely in your lifetime for the area. Therefore, understanding the behavior of these waves has significant implications. If you are interested in hosting a seismic station, or the larger study being conducted by the USGS, you can click here.


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