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Author(s) of the publication: S. Fioletov

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For a number of years RAS specialists have been studying the Elbrus area, a region where the highest European mountain (5,642 m), a two-peak cone of the dormant volcano, is located. Last time the volcano erupted about 1,800 years ago, and today there is a great probability that Elbrus will "wake up"*; besides, the territory around the "sparkling giant" is densely populated and there is actively developing turism–all these factors speak for the necessity to organize a regular geophysical and seismic monitoring in this area. And the ice has already been broken: scientists of the RAS Institute of Physics of the Earth (Moscow) and Kabardino-Balkarian State University (Nalchik) arranged five observation posts located in the territory of the university (Laboratory No. 3 in specially designed deepened premises), near Elbrussky settlement (Karachayevo-Cherkessian Republic), in the Big Sochi region and in the tunnel of the Baksan Neutrino Observatory of the RAS Institute for Nuclear Research (Laboratory No. 1 in a separate lateral cutting of Glavnaya tunnel and No. 2 in the lateral chamber of Vspomogatel-naya tunnel). The measuring equipment is installed on concrete bases molded in the bedrock.

Seven years ago scientists of the aforementioned educational establishments took interest in a remarkable phenomenon–well-marked change of the magnetic field before earthquakes. From that moment geophysicists began to develop a new research trend that gave impressive results. Leonid Sobisevich, Chief Research Assistant of the RAS Institute of Physics of the Earth, presented new scientific data to Stanislav Fioletov, reporter of the Poisk

See: V. Alexeyev, N. Alexeyeva, "Is Elbrus Waking Up?..", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2008.–Ed.

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newspaper, in the course of the All-Russia Conference Natural Processes, Geodynamics, Seismotectonics, held in September 2010 at Kabardino-Balkarian University.

Specialists have established the following: all major seismic events, both on land and at sea, are preceded by a burst of electromagnetic emission. They learnt how to distinguish the most powerful signals and make charts of the process that begins some days or only a couple of hours before a destructive natural catastrophe. At the conference the scientists also presented exciting monitoring data collected on the eve and during the earthquake of spring 2010 in the north of Sumatra. In the summer of 2009, using a newly developed method, researchers at the Verkhne-kubansky seismic polygon in the Karachayevo-Cherkess-ian Republic managed to forecast the Indonesian earthquake of magnitude 7 rather accurately (with 1 h error).

National geophysicists were the first in the world to make such measurements and established: thirty registered sea earthquakes took place after magnetic disturbances. In the future this forerunner of natural disasters could be included in the earthquake prediction system, but there are still many factors to be clarified. For example, there is no clear answer to the question: what processes are primary: lithos-pheric or ionospheric? To get the answer, scientists studied different electromagnetic fluctuations in the Earth's ionosphere and found out: it plays a certain role in origination of electromagnetic fluctuations, even can amplify them. However, the signal formed as a result of current processes in the lithosphere directly affects the upper layers of the atmosphere. Consequently, further studies and more statistical data are required.

University Laboratory No. 3, where the International Seismic Station Nalchik with the international code is located, is of special value for the region. It is a place where data from other observation posts are accumulated and analyzed, after which primary information is forwarded to the RAS Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radio Wave Propagation named after N. Pushkov (Troitsk, Moscow Region).

However, the existing laboratories are not enough and scientists are planning to expand the network. Thus,

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there is need for a seismic laboratory at the point nearest to Elbrus–Terskol peak (about 3,000 m), where the Russo-Ukrainian Astronomical Observatory is situated today. As for the ultimate task, scientists hope one day they will open the first full-scale geophysical observatory in Northern Caucasia. According to Alexander Shevchenko, Cand. Sc. (Pedag.), Head of the Emergency Chair at Kabardino-Balkarian State University, apart from fundamental research, this will enable scientists to search for alternative energy sources in the region, in particular, geothermal resources.

There are 38 explored geothermal sources in the republic. On a weekly basis postgraduates collect samples, determine gas composition, measure temperature and other parameters. Scientists have already estimated volumes of in-depth high-temperature gases. There exists a quite simple technology of use of alternative energy: a generator is lowered to a specially drilled well–and here you are, a mini power station is ready for operation. If pumped water meets technical requirements, it can be supplied to the heating system in winter.

But let's get back to the development of geophysical monitoring in the Elbrus region and Northern Caucasia as a whole, which was actively discussed at the conference. At the moment, there operates a network of the Geophysical Service of the Republic of Northern Ossetia-Alania-mod-ern digital seismic stations registering seismic events of magnitude 1 in the central part of the region and of magnitude 2-2.5 in the remote areas. For a year scientists registered 1,000-1,200 events, for a 6-year period there were recorded over 7,000 cases. According to Eduard Pogoda, Director of the North Ossetia Branch of the RAS Geophysical Service, who also shared his opinion with the Poisk newspaper, concerted effort of his institution, Kabardino-Balkarian State University, Institute of Physics of the Earth and other academic establishments could turn Northern Caucasia into a polygon for large-scale instrumental geophysical monitoring, and earthquake forecasts would become more precise.

By the way, they plan to launch a number of seismic stations in Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia in the near future. Installation of equipment in the tunnel of the Baksan Neutrino Observatory of the RAS Institute for Nuclear Research could improve accuracy of information in the territory of Northern Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, Chechnya and a major part of Karachai-Cherkess Republic. Such monitoring network is already operating in Dagestan and Stavropol Territory. That is how a modern network of seismic and geophysical stations is developing in Northern Caucasia, which will enable scientists to make more exact forecasts and enhance prosperity of the region.

S. FioletovMagnetic Prelude, "Poisk" newspaper, No. 43, 2010

Prepared by Yevgeniya SIDOROVA


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S. Fioletov, GEOPHYSICAL MONITORING IN NORTHERN CAUCASIA // Astana: Digital Library of Kazakhstan (BIBLIO.KZ). Updated: 16.09.2021. URL: https://biblio.kz/m/articles/view/GEOPHYSICAL-MONITORING-IN-NORTHERN-CAUCASIA (date of access: 18.10.2021).

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