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Prototype Early Warning System Worked During Calif. 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.

This GPS station near the summit of Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park could be part of a future earthquake detection and early warning system. Courtesy of Tim Melbourne, CWU
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This GPS station near the summit of Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park could be part of a future earthquake detection and early warning system. Courtesy of Tim Melbourne, CWU

"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.

On the Web:

Japan earthquake early warning system:

http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/en/Activities/eew.html

Pacific Northwest Seismic Network:

http://www.pnsn.org/

Previous coverage: "Work Begins on Regional Earthquake Early Warning System" (Nov. 28, 2011):

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=142916132

Home video of earthquake warning:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYctjv7ouBc

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.