A new type of sub-surface, sonic detection system is making all the night noises when it comes to efficient landslide detection.
The system, developed at Loughbrough University in cooperation with the British Geological Society, is actually quite straightforward. A system of sound-detecting, wireless sensors are buried along the edge of a hill or cliff where landslide activity is likely. The sensors then act as tiny microphones and are able to detect any increase in the "noise" being made by soil particles in the area.
This noise is not simply the noise of soil shifting around, but sound at the inter-particle level. This noise value corresponds directly to just how much movement is being done by the landmass, and just how much more it is going to do shortly. In the same way that objects like eggs will emit cracking sounds before they ultimately fail, unstable soil will also show certain acoustic characteristics before it becomes downwardly mobile.
The detection system could be set for a particular noise threshold and, once reached, would send out a text message to local authorities warning them about the impending doom and allowing them time to get the people they like evacuated and tell those that they're not too fond of to stay put.
If cuaght early enough by the system, authorities might have time to repair any degradation and allow the ground to return to being semi-stable.
While the fact that soil particles make noise before they come crashing down has been known since the 1960s, it only now that small and cost-effective microprocessors have become available that a system such as this one could be effectively created. The system is thought to be a world first, and once thoroughly tested should be simple to implement in high-landslide risk areas.
Based on the current research and going by the financial backing of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, this project seems to be firmly planted on solid ground.