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Nov 14 / Dave Schumaker

Early Warnings for Earthquakes

Thanks to Caspar for sending this in. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle last week explains that scientists may be able to use fast travelling P-waves to predict how large an earthquake is and send off warnings of an impending earthquake seconds before their surface waves actually hit. This would give time for people to quickly find cover and utilities to shut down various services.

Ten years ago, geophysicists William L. Ellsworth of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park and Gregory C. Beroza of Stanford University studied 30 of the most recent earthquakes in California and South Africa and concluded that the strength of the jolts of the first P waves “exerts a strong influence on the size of the eventual earthquake.”

That observation led Allen and Olson to study in much greater detail the relationship between the nature of a quake’s P waves and its subsequent shear waves. They determined that the first jolts could indeed enable them to predict the ultimate magnitude of the temblor within seconds.

Various systems are currently be tested, such as this one mentioned in the article. More info available via Science Daily.

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