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Real-time GPS can help detect earthquakes

by GPS4US 2013-12-16 16:10

Scientists have developed a prototype network of GPS receivers to monitor earthquakes and other natural
disasters in Southern California.

By linking GPS receivers to a real-time network that compiles and analyzes information, the system can
be used to detect earthquakes and extreme weather while they’re happening, Discovery.com reports.

“The goal is to save lives during natural hazards,” researcher Yehuda Bock of the Scripps Institution
of Oceanography told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco this week,
according to Discovery.com. “By adding small inexpensive sensors used in popular electronic devices to
existing GPS … we can greatly enhance our response to natural hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunamis,
severe weather and flooding.”

The new system will shorten the time between events and public alerts.

“Our system improves on the traditional seismic monitoring … by estimating the ground motions and
permanent displacements,” Bock told Discovery.com. “Ground seismic systems only measure the shaking.

Discovery uses the example of a large earthquake along the southern San Andreas Fault. It would take up
to two minutes to reach Los Angeles, time which could be used alerting the public. The system can
assess potential damage to bridges, buildings and other structures after an earthquake, Discovery says.

The system also can quickly assess potential damage to buildings, bridges, and other structures due to
ground displacement after an earthquake.

Japan had GPS monitoring during its 2011 earthquake. However, according to Block, by using traditional
seismic data instead, it vastly underestimated the size of the tremor.

“They initially estimated the magnitude of the earthquake to be magnitude 7 after 30 seconds. Only
after nine minutes did they turn it into a 7.9 earthquake. It took 2.5 hours to finally estimate that
it was as large as it was” -- a magnitude 9, Bock told Discovery.com.

The project hopes to add sensors to 550 stations with real-time networks along the American west coast,
Discovery.com reports. To date, 17 enhanced GPS stations exist.

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