Japan: Research aims to predict landslides through smell sensors

Source(s)
Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd., the - Mainichi Daily news, the

Researchers and a resident from part of the western Japan prefecture of Hiroshima that was hit by deadly landslides in 2014 have teamed up to develop sensors that can detect the earthy smell said to emanate before a landslide occurs.

It is hoped that this unusual type of sensor could alert people to the threat of a landslide at an early stage and help them evacuate before disaster strikes. The researchers, including Masahiro Nishi, a professor at Hiroshima City University, hope to complete the system this fiscal year.

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According to Toshitaka Kamai, a professor in applied geology in the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at Kyoto University, foreboding signs are often observed before a landslide -- such as a stinky smell emerging or river water becoming muddy. Although the mechanism behind the smell has not yet been unraveled, Kamai says, "It's thought one factor is that the land formation changes when earth and sand collapse, opening cracks in the ground."

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