A tiltmeter is an instrument designed to measure very small changes from the horizontal level, either on the ground or in structures. A similar term, in less common usage, is the inclinometer. Tiltmeters are used extensively for monitoring volcanos, the response of dams to filling, the small movements of potential landslides, the orientation and volume of hydraulic fractures, and the response of structures to various influences such as loading and foundation settlement.

Tiltmeters have a long history, somewhat parallel to the history of the seismometer. [http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/2001/01_05_17.html] The very first tiltmeter was a long-length stationary pendulum. These were used in the very first large concrete dams, and are still in use today, augmented with newer technology such as laser reflectors. Although they had been used for other applications such as volcano monitoring, they have distinct disadvantages, such as their huge length and sensitivity to air currents. Even in dams, they are slowly being replaced by the modern electronic tiltmeter.

Volcano and earth-movement monitoring then used the water-tube, long baseline tiltmeter. This was a simple arrangement of two water pots, connected by a long water-filled tube. Any change in tilt would be registered by a difference in fill-mark of one pot compared to the other. Although extensively used throughout the world for earth-science research, they have proven to be quite difficult to operate. For example, due to their high sensitivity to temperature differentials, these always have to be read in the middle of the night.

The modern electronic tiltmeter, which is slowly replacing all other forms of tiltmeter, uses a simple bubble-level principle, as used in the common carpenter level. [http://www.geomechanics.com/dspapp.cfm?appid=71] As shown in the figure, an arrangement of electrodes senses the exact position of the bubble in the electrolytic solution, to a high degree of precision. Any small changes in the level are recorded using a standard datalogger. This arrangement is quite insensitive to temperature, and can be fully compensated, using built-in thermal electronics. A newer technology uses MEMS electronics, but it is not clear whether this can eventually displace the common bubble.

The most dramatic application of tiltmeters is in the area of volcanic eruption prediction. [http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/About/What/Monitor/Deformation/TiltKilauea.html] As shown in this figure from the USGS, the main volcano in Hawaii (Kilauea) had a habit of filling the main chamber with magma, and then discharging to a side vent. The graph shows this repeated action, with a pattern of swelling of the main chamber (recorded by the tiltmeter), draining of that chamber, and then an eruption of the adjoining vent. Each number at the peak of tilt, on the graph, is a recorded eruption.

ee also

* Tilt test
* Dam safety system
* Differential GPS
* Remote sensing methods
* Rock mechanics
* Geomechanics

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • tiltmeter — [tilt′mēt΄ər] n. CLINOMETER …   English World dictionary

  • tiltmeter — noun Date: 1932 an instrument to measure the tilting of the earth s surface …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • tiltmeter — /tilt mee teuhr/, n. Geol. an instrument used to measure slight changes in the inclination of the earth s surface, usually in connection with volcanology and earthquake seismology. [1930 35; TILT1 + METER] * * * …   Universalium

  • tiltmeter — instrument for measuring tilting of earth s surface Scientific Instruments …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • tiltmeter — /ˈtɪltmitə/ (say tiltmeetuh) noun an instrument used to measure small changes from the horizontal, either on the ground or on surfaces; used in monitoring ground inflation and deflation before and during volcanic events …   Australian English dictionary

  • tiltmeter — ˈ ̷ ̷ˌ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷ noun : an instrument to measure tilting of the earth s surface * * * /tilt mee teuhr/, n. Geol. an instrument used to measure slight changes in the inclination of the earth s surface, usually in connection with volcanology and… …   Useful english dictionary

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