Earthquake Alert! app interface
Earthquake Alert! app interfaceGoogle Play

There is no technology available to predict earthquakes to date, except a few mobile phone apps like Earthquake-American Red Cross, Earthquakes, and MyQuake that alert people during a tremor. Going a step further, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is developing an earthquake early warning system (EEW) called ShakeAlert in collaboration with several universities.

The USGS and university partners namely California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), California Geological Survey, California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington, and University of Oregon are testing ShakeAlert with an aim to provide the public with alert up to 10 seconds before an earthquake hits.

Funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the USGS, the project will come in handy to anticipate natural calamities like earthquake. There is no technology to predict an earthquake, but ShakeAlert can identify, characterize and calculate the likely intensity based on ground shaking, and then send out warning signal to the public.

How does ShakeAlert works?

Two types of seimic waves are released from the epicentre during an earthquake. P waves travel at a velocity of about six kilometres per second in rock, while the S waves travel at four kilometres per second. However, S waves have larger amplitude and can cause more damage.

ShakeAlert detects P waves, which are rarely damaging, arriving at seismometers and sends signals to a computer system that finds out the location, and travel time of both P and S waves. ShakeAlert then alerts the public a few seconds before the more dangerous S waves arrive.

The technology just gives information on the time it may take before a tremor hits your location. It can't predict when and where it will happen. ShakeAlert may even fail to send out a warning if one is near the epicentre or too close to the earthquake.