Australian Geophysical Observing System (AGOS)

Monitoring and understanding the physical state of the accessible crust


AuScope’s Australian Geophysical Observing System was funded through the Education Investment Fund (EIF3) and designed to augment existing NCRIS AuScope infrastructure with new capability that focuses particularly on emerging geophysical energy issues. It built the integrated infrastructure that facilitates maximum scientific return from the massive geo-engineering projects that are now being considered, such as deep geothermal drilling; in effect building the platform for treating these as mega geophysical science experiments. AuScope AGOS infrastructure enables collection of new baseline data including surface geospatial and subsurface imaging and monitoring data, thereby providing for better long-term management of crustal services, particularly in Australias energy-rich sedimentary basins.

The Geospatial Observatory is providing access to geodetic instruments that support the measurement of the deformation of the solid Earth. The Earth Sounding Network is providing a new generation of passive imaging and monitoring capability via a large pool of specially designed equipment. The Subsurface Observatory is allowing experimentation and subsurface data collection in and around existing boreholes. The Geohistory Laboratory is providing analytical equipment to unravel the thermal structure of the upper crust. The Inversion Laboratory is building open source computational software for geoscience inversion problems. The Geophysical Education Observatory is combining real time monitoring of the Australian continent as a tool for promoting geoscience education across the curriculum.

Project Description

AuScope AGOS has built a nationally integrated research infrastructure platform focused on delivering the understanding of the physical state of the accessible crust that is crucial to meeting secure, sustainable future energy needs. It focuses on boosting knowledge generation in the geosciences already Australias leading research field by international measures.

The Earth’s crust provides many crucial services essential to the wealth and health of human society: the platform on which we live, the mineral, energy and groundwater resources on which we depend and, increasingly, a secure repository for our hazardous waste. A new level of understanding is required to comprehend the capacity of, and threats to, existing and emerging crustal services. In particular, the provision of cheap and secure, reliable and sustainable energy into the future will be predicated on our success in meeting this challenge.

To achieve this, AGOS delivered new, cheaper ways of monitoring, imaging and modelling the accessible crust and its resource inventories in unprecedented level of detail. It built on the estimated multibillion-dollar investment in deep drilling through provision of a national subsurface observatory, making existing deep boreholes available to the geoscience research community. Allowing both direct and indirect probing of the upper 5km of the crust, AGOS provides the first integrated crustal observatory, augmenting remote geophysical methods with new capability in direct subsurface methods.

AGOS provides the infrastructure that underpins the geophysical research communities, and provides a platform for training the next generation of geophysical researchers. Strengthening geophysics research and training is a major national issue. Capacity-building is required for the next generation of geophysical and geoscience challenges. More than 100 researchers based in the 14 partner organisations, together with collaborating scientists from all national geophysics centres, will have access to the infrastructure and, through research projects, deliver new PhD graduates across the country, while also delivering new possibilities for the broader community in energy provision through geothermal, waste storage and groundwater.

Understanding the accessible crust, and the services it can provide, provides crucial information as we rebuild our energy production infrastructure to insure that it best serves the needs of both present and future generations. In providing new options for secure energy supply AuScope AGOS helps underpin a modern productive competitive economy.

Description of Infrastructure

AuScopes AGOS creates specific capability for enhanced data acquisition and simulation capabilities for the geophysics of the shallow crust of the Australian continent.It delivers a new geophysical observing capability designed to characterise and monitor the physical state and behavior of the accessible crust.

It builds on the infrastructure already developed by AuScope in geospatial and imaging areas, making available new seismometers, borehole strain meters, GPS stations, and a host of other scientific instruments to provide new capability exploring new realms of the continent; from the ocean fringe to the deepest levels of the crust accessible by drilling. This targeted investment delivers an integrated observing system across the Nation involving:

  • Geospatial Observatory – analysis of surface responses to sub-surface activity
  • Geospatial Equipment Pool
  • Earth Sounding Network – imaging of the crust
  • Subsurface Observatory – accessing the subsurface
  • Geohistory Laboratory – constraining time dependence
  • Inversion Laboratory – adding value to the data
  • Geophysical Education Observatory – explaining the purpose


It adds new capabilities through the first national subsurface observatory, designed to allow geosciences researchers to conduct experiments at depths of up to 5 km.