Transforming Earthquake Detection and Science through Citizen Seismology

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Lea A. Shanley and Aaron Lovell

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other scientific institutions are using social media and crowdsourcing to learn more about earthquakes, according to a new report. These techniques provide inexpensive and rapid data to augment and extend the capabilities provided by traditional monitoring techniques. The new report, Transforming Earthquake Detection and Science Through Citizen Seismology, released by the Commons Lab at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, outlines these groundbreaking citizen science projects. The report describes how the USGS and others are engaging the public and advancing earthquake monitoring and knowledge of seismic events. The ultimate goal, according to the USGS, is to provide more rapid earthquake detection and generate more real-time hazard and impact information.

The efforts discussed in the report include the Tweet Earthquake Dispatch (TED), which uses an algorithm to provide seismologists with initial alerts of earthquakes felt around the globe via Twitter in less than two minutes. The report also examines the Quake Catcher Network, which equips the public with low-cost sensors to collect information on seismic activity, and Did You Feel It? (DYFI), which uses the Internet to survey individuals about their experiences in earthquakes, including location and extent of the damage.