The CA ShakeAlert earthquake warning system now uses GPS data to determine magnitude

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — New developments that might make a difference for you in the next major earthquake. On Wednesday, the US Geological Survey announced a major improvement to the ShakeAlert system – all thanks to data collected by satellites.

Currently, you will receive an alert on your phone if an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater occurs nearby.

Now satellite data is included in the warning system.

So if a really big earthquake happens, people are much more likely to find out how big it is and where it is located.

Scientists say this will give us more time to take action.

Major earthquakes can cause major damage.

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“The magnitude 7 earthquakes are the ones that typically cause the damage,” said Bob de Groot of USGS.

Early warning can therefore be crucial for protecting people and infrastructure.

The ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system sends alerts to users in California, Oregon and Washington via a phone app.

Those warnings – usually just a few seconds – depend on how far you are from the earthquake epicenter.

De Groot is a member of the lead shake alert operations team.

“We have now integrated the global positioning system data into our overall data feed on how we collect earthquake information,” de Groot said. “GPS sensors will allow more accurate determination of increasing size.”

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By integrating data from GPS systems and using data from 1,500 seismic sensors, scientists will be able to give people more opportunities to protect themselves – to drop, take cover and hold on.

This is how it works.

“The GPS sensors measure how far the Earth has moved up, down, sideways and from left to right. The seismic sensors tell us how fast the ground is moving,” says de Groot.

“I think it’s very exciting because it provides a whole new kind of observation that we didn’t have in the system before 403, and improves its functionality for the very large earthquake that we will eventually encounter,” said Jessica Murray, a geophysicist. with USGS.

The improvements to the shake warning system are welcomed by the San Francisco Department of Emergency. It released this statement:

“We are encouraged by recent developments in earthquake warning technology and look forward to continuing our work with USGS to ensure San Franciscans receive the earliest possible warnings. We encourage everyone to take steps today to prepare for the next damaging earthquake.”

USGS says the system is more than 90% complete. Another 500 seismic sensors should be added by the end of 2025.

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