Environment
11:09 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Prototype Early Warning System Worked During California Quake

A prototype earthquake early warning system worked as designed when an actual quake gently shook California last Friday. Researchers reported the results Tuesday at the annual meeting of American seismologists.

Last year, a private foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey gave a multimillion dollar grant to create an automated earthquake warning system for the Pacific Coast states. The idea is to provide advance notice to prepare people for severe shaking. It could come via a cell phone alert or a pop-up on your computer or TV screen.

University of California-Berkeley researcher Richard Allen says the prototype worked when a magnitude 3.5 earthquake struck the Santa Cruz Mountains last week. "The system is actually functioning pretty well in test mode," Allen says. "At my desktop in Berkeley, I got 25 seconds of warning for that event."

Colleagues at Central Washington University are studying how to improve the accuracy of the earthquake magnitude estimates. Scientists say the full build out of a public early warning system on the Pacific Coast is not funded and likely years away.