Earthquake Alert!

Stop all trains. Shut down and open all elevators at the nearest floor. Halt all construction. Power down all utilities. Seek immediate cover. An earthquake will occur in the Los Angeles area in the next 45 seconds…

San Francisco was the city at the epicenter of seismology’s attention Monday at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. 15,000 geophysicists from around the world were in attendance. So, it’s sorta social. Demented and sad, but, social.

Researchers are testing three different early warning methods for speed and accuracy, and hope to develop a system that can send out an earthquake warning within 5 SECONDS.

Okay, SF. Now you have our attention…

Photo of 1906 San Francisco from farlane’s photostream

The warning system would be triggered by a big earthquake and would take advantage of the fact that quakes send out two sets of seismic waves. The primary waves are twice as fast but far weaker than the secondary waves which do the real damage.

Seismic stations would detect the primary, or p-waves, and a computer algorithm would estimate where the quake occurred, where the secondary waves are headed and how strong the shaking will be. Depending on how fast this can be done, and where the epicenter is, cities could get anywhere between a few seconds to 45 seconds or a minute of warning.

So far, the systems are taking about 20 seconds to generate an alert, but (researches hope) to get that down to about 5 seconds. If stations detect the first waves 5 seconds after a quake starts, then a warning could be sent out after just 10 seconds.

This. Totally. Rules. Extreme, Extreme!

After Bill successfully makes Dorothy fly, Jo begins to wonder what other hidden talents he may possess.

4 Replies to “Earthquake Alert!”

  1. Sadly, I have heard this story since before Northdridge and it hasn’t come to fruition. A few seconds really gives us at best to duck and cover. A bit more on really big quakes far away to do the shut downs to power, trains etc.,. But I’d imagine the early warning tests would eventually be ignored like those during the cold war of the Emergency Broadcast System.

  2. No, individuals probably wouldn’t benefit from such warnings, but automated systems that shut down the flow of natural gas on seconds’ notice, or elevators that immediately stop at the first available floor would be viable products that could be connected to such an early-warning system. That would be pretty cool.

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