Geophysics

To Catch a Quake

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Science  26 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6046, pp. 1072
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6046.1072-a
CREDIT: SOE ZEYA TUN/RTR/NEWSCOM

Large earthquakes leave affected populations disoriented and emergency responders scrambling. Having fast, reliable estimates of the location and magnitude of the mainshock and its aftershocks is vital to an effective rapid response plan. In developing countries with the potential for large earthquakes, installing and maintaining seismic networks to collect such data can be expensive. The Quake-Catcher Network is a volunteer-based seismic network that employs personal computers as low-cost seismic stations by sending seismic data collected with a small USB accelerometer through the user's Internet connection. Although this network had yet to be installed in Chile before the 2010 M 8.8 Maule earthquake, volunteers rapidly installed nearly 100 accelerometers within weeks in and around the mainshock area, including stations set up in local government buildings, health stations, and homes. Chung et al. describe the network's ability to accurately collect and discriminate aftershock data and shaking intensity estimates—most within 30 s of an individual event. Improvements in accelerometer technology and data processing will probably improve data quality to the point that future networks of hundreds or thousands of stations installed in high-seismicity regions will aid first responders in determining where most help is needed after a large earthquake strikes.

Seismol. Res. Lett. 82, 526 (2011).

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