The seventies saw great expansion of research facilities at IGPP, with the development of the Piñon Flat Observatory (PFO). Work at PFO began in 1970, at which time the land was owned by the U.S. Forest Service; it was purchased by the University in 1980 with generous support from Cecil and Ida Green. Operation of the observatory is now supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), and the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC).
The Observatory occupies 160 acres of land in the mountains just south of Palm Springs, and was designed primarily to monitor the movements of the faults upon which earthquakes occur. Utilizing laser technology, the slow build up of strain prior to earthquakes has been continuously recorded since 1971, and the analysis of these records has already significantly improved our views about the way these motions occur. The Observatory is nationally recognized as the most complete and sophisticated in the country. It is a unique facility as (a) it comprises laser strain instrumentation, superconducting gravimeters, as well as more conventional seismic instruments, and (b) it is located adjacent to the most active fault in California (the San Jacinto), and as such offers an ideal setting to test the hypotheses of earthquake prediction. Project IDA (International Deployment of Accelerometers) is headquartered at IGPP and is an international program for the deployment of very long period seismometers. Started in 1975 and made possible by the generosity of Ida and Cecil Green, the network is designed as a global antenna to study the long period waves associated with moderate to large earthquakes, free oscillations of the Earth, and Earth and ocean tides. There are currently 36 broadband stations deployed worldwide, which send digital data to a central data bank at IGPP for unpacking and re-formatting. Initially, the long period seismometers were made by adapting LaCoste & Romberg accelerometers, which were upgraded in the early 1990's to three component seismometers from funds provided by Cecil and Ida Green. Project IDA has undergone expansion since it's development, but especially after the IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) was formed in 1984 and IGPP became the IDA/IRIS network operations center.