TED (Twitter Earthquake Detection) and the “Big One”

7.6 Philippine earthquake

For those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, we are consistently concerned when the next big quake is coming. The pending earthquake that we are long overdue for is estimated will be approximately a 9.0 magnitude. A recent study from U.S. scientists in separate studies found that the possibility of a mega-thrust earthquake off the Pacific is much closer than once thought. The evidence indicates that suck mega-quakes of the 9.0 category have happened off the coast every 300 to 600 years. The last such quake occurred Jan 26, 1700.

Seismologists used Twitter to detect tremors that preceded and predict a large 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck last Friday in the Philippines. Using a system called TED (Twitter Earthquake Detection) was able to beat the US Geological Survey (USGS) own sensors in detecting the quake that struck off the Philippine coast.

The quake was registered at a depth of 21 miles (34km) and its epicenter was some 80 miles (128km) east of the Visayas Islands.

Recent Pacific Northwest Earthquakes

The TED system uses the popular micro-blogging site to gather and analyze incoming earthquake related tweets from Twitter. The information parses information in real time and takes into account factors such as place and time of the tweets as well as keyword filtering to gather enough information within seconds.

Paul Caruso, from the US Geological Survey, said: ‘We do have sensors and it usually takes about five minutes before the sensors will see the earthquake. Traditional methods can take anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes to issues a scientific alert.

The use of Twitter and micro-blogging sites to gather real time data is perhaps one of the best adaptations of the internet today and stands to revolutionize the rather pedestrian nature of social media use. Being able to glean this useful data from the public to provide advanced warning and detection systems, has the potential to save countless lives and to gather useful data to supplement the USGS seismic monitoring equipment and prediction capabilities.

This is also an appropriate time to remind all of our readers (especially those of you in the Pacific Northwest or California areas, to be prepared with an emergency supply of food, shelter, clothes and water. Ideally you should have a “bug-out-bag” http://cms.oregon.gov/DOGAMI/pages/emergencykit.aspx or emergency kit with at all times with enough supplies to last you and each family member a minimum of 3 days (7 days is better).

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