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For California, an Earthquake Early Warning System Is Up and Running

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the timely-in-light-of-christchurch dept.

Earth 152

autospa writes "In California's Coachella Valley around Palm Springs, a state-of-the-art, first-in-the-world earthquake early warning system in now installed and operational. Twelve locations are now in place with 120 sites planned, all meant to detect an earthquake and give people a chance to get under a table, or in the case of a fire station, get the engines outside of the building."

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152 comments

How do they know it works? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303050)

So, barring an actual earthquake, how do they know this thing works?

I assume this isn't predicting, but setting off alarm bells as soon as possible?

Re:How do they know it works? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35303124)

So, barring an actual earthquake, how do they know this thing works?

They just pick up the sensor, shake it really hard, and listen for alarms.

Re:How do they know it works? (2)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303138)

It's little more than a fancy network of seismometers. Why wouldn't it?

It uses video cameras and cats (2)

billstewart (78916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303586)

If the video cameras detect the cats acting weird, then that means there's going to be an earthquake soon. It was easy to verify its accuracy - small earthquakes happen all the time in various parts of California, and they checked the video recordings and the cats had been acting weird just before the quakes.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303698)

"If the video cameras detect the cats acting weird..."

According to my cat, there's an earthquake every day.

But joking aside, I would have thought fire-stations would be built earthquake-proof, that would be the sensible thing.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (2)

Transkaren (1925482) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304016)

Nothing is earthquake-proof. You can build an *incredibly* rigid structure. But when you do, the quake will be just that much stronger, and knock it down anyway. Earthquake engineering isn't designing structures to not take damage. It's designing structures to take the minimum amount of damage. In some cases, entire sections of floor might be considered sacrificial - beams are designed to bend side to side (by cutting the top and bottom off the I) instead of passing the force to the column (causing the column, and everything above it, to fail). The reason we have so few fatalities here isn't because we build our buildings strong. It's because we build our buildings flexible. Most areas of the world used brick, mortar and other rigid stone-like materials for hundreds of years. California is just plain newer, so while we have failures they tend to be less catastrophic because of the amount of steel (a ductile metal) and wood used in construction.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304244)

Given CA's *generally* pleasant climate, I wonder what the savings might be for parking the trucks *outside* all the time. Even under a fabric canopy to stop sun damage.

Also Given the general frequency of significant quakes and the increasing likeliness of a 'big' quake, perhaps parking trucks outside might be a plausible idea?

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35304548)

But joking aside, I would have thought fire-stations would be built earthquake-proof, that would be the sensible thing.

The buildings don't fall down, to be sure -- it's more that they're quake-resistant, not quake-proof. But often there's just enough warping that sliding doors are no longer able to slide up ... leaving the trucks stuck inside. So an early warning that let them open the doors would enable them to drive out the trucks as needed.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35305214)

But joking aside, I would have thought fire-stations would be built earthquake-proof, that would be the sensible thing.

there is no such thing as earthquake "proof". at least not what can be afforded by communities for fire stations.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303704)

If the video cameras detect the cats acting weird

How do you differentiate between "normal"-cat weird, and "earthquake"-cat weird??

I find cats act weird at the best of times.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (3, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303838)

That's what Schroedinger's box is for. The really weird ones don't survive.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304288)

The really weird both survive AND don't survive.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35304474)

The actual system uses a very simple concept.
Every time there's an earthquake, someone travels back in time and raises a warning. Simple.

Re:It uses video cameras and cats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35304528)

I'm surprised there isn't some system in development for using animals as earthquake detectors. At least from what I've heard some breads are quite accurate at predicting earthquakes. The most accurate system that I can think of would be a couple dozen animals in different locations with censors precisely monitoring their movements and vocalizations. If one or two animals become agitated at any one time, no biggie, its probably feeding/playtime time or something. But if half of them are showing a 50% increase in activity you know somethings up.

Re:How do they know it works? (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303256)

It detects an earthquake is on it's why. Remember earthquakes travel down the fault. So when i happens at point A, Point Be might be far enough to get 30 seconds of warning.

Re:How do they know it works? (2)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303448)

Who would of thought the speed of light through a wire is faster then then the speed of sound through rock.

Re:How do they know it works? (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303502)

Kinda depends on how stiff the rock is, actually, and the impedance of the wire.

Re:How do they know it works? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35303674)

It really depends on the conditions for the light too. Light can go as slow as 38 mph [harvard.edu] .

Re:How do they know it works? (0)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304576)

Re:How do they know it works? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304926)

The fastest seismic velocity in the crust is about(rounding up) 8Km/s, That's less then 5mph.

It's roughly 18,000 mph [google.com] .

Re:How do they know it works? (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304944)

The fastest seismic velocity in the crust is about(rounding up) 8Km/s, That's less then 5mph.

I think you mean miles per second. It'd be like 18k mph ;)

Re:How do they know it works? (2)

pyroclast (1809246) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303498)

Assuming this is the same QuakeGuard as mentioned in the article, here is their technical explanation http://www.seismicwarning.com/technology/waveseparation.php [seismicwarning.com]

Re:How do they know it works? (2)

pyroclast (1809246) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304012)

From QuakeGuard technical page: "The QuakeGuard technology detects the non-destructive P-waves while filtering other sources of vibrations that can lead to false alarms. The elimination of false warnings is a result of QuakeGuard's patented DSP algorithms that filter detected vibrations to isolate the signature waveforms of a seismic event that has just occurred. Depending on the geological composition of the terrain and the distance from the epicenter of the seismic event, a warning of 10 to 60 seconds is possible."

Re:How do they know it works? (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303812)

I assume this isn't predicting, but setting off alarm bells as soon as possible?

The summary would certainly suggest that (emphasis added):
In California's Coachella Valley around Palm Springs, a state-of-the-art, first-in-the-world earthquake early warning system in now installed and operational.

Re:How do they know it works? (2)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304236)

So, barring an actual earthquake, how do they know this thing works?

I assume this isn't predicting, but setting off alarm bells as soon as possible?

Quick to ask but slow to RTFA? Heh.

An earthquake creates two waves. The first one triggers the alarm before the second one reaches you. And yes, it'll be clear that it works after the first quake hits. However, they're already tracking the seismic data reliably anyway.

Re:How do they know it works? (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304790)

Japan has been doing this for a while.

I don't expect to have a quake alarm in my house. However, if I'm riding a train I'd like to know that it will come to a stop when it gets an alarm, or that if I'm about to cross the Oakland Bridge, the metering lights will stay stuck on red. BTW, if that ever happens, DON'T RUN THE LIGHT. You might be really, really sorry.

I know the Japanese are already doing this with trains. A system like this ought to be a prerequisite before we even think of building high speed rail. I won't be surprised if they're way behind on the integration though...

Re:How do they know it works? (1)

alexborges (313924) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304844)

The center of Mexico has had this kind of thing since the nineties. It gives you about 2-5 minutes, depending on the location of the epicenter.

Re:How do they know it works? (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305126)

They've doing this in japan and Mexico for years. Their quakes tend to happen offshore with a couple minutes warning before the more energetic phases.

Interesting idea, horrible article (3, Informative)

jlechem (613317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303052)

Let's see 3 paragraphs with no real info. What seismic level are they talking about? A 2, 3, 4, 5, or what? In Utah we got lots of 2 and 3s all the time. California is even worse. Who decides when it's time to hit the panic button? And if it's a person that means they have to have staff available 24x7. Still it seems pretty cool they're trying to solve this problem.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (5, Insightful)

drerwk (695572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303226)

Without reading the article, it is a computer which then calls the fire department garage doors and they open. The FD will not collapse on the Engines but the door may jam, or not work for lack of electricity. Also some elevators may stop and open at the nearest floor. hospital generators may start. That sort of thing. I am not expecting a text that say duck. I was in Santa Cruz eating dinner for the '89 and it was terrifying. Even though the fire engines got out, the roads were choked and they could not get anywhere. After about 15 minutes, I could count about 6 fires in the distance. I had even heard it might give warning in surgery to pull out instruments and cover the patient to keep dust out.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (3, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303392)

I think you're correct (I read TFA, as usual it doesn't help).

The big question will be the false positive rate. If you're randomly opening up doors / turning on large, expensive generators and scrambling OR teams on a regular basis, it will get shut off like all of the OTHER alarm systems that cry wolf repeatedly. Presumably, this bit of wisdom has been considered by the engineering team and it's acceptable (if not dozens of Slashdot posts will helpfully remind them). Be nice to have more details.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303526)

How often does your UPS false-positive on you?

Those times it beeps when you aren't expecting it, it's actually detected an intermittent fault in its input.

Reliability is easy if you're in control of the entire system.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304260)

When my UPS squeals because it detected a transient spike, or if it's just a cheap Chinese capacitor having a bad day, it doesn't open up my garage doors, set off sirens and start the generators. I'd be a tad miffed if it did that all the time. Some false positives are easier to deal with than others.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303438)

And if it pans out, there could even be special earth quake lights to indicate to driver to get away from bridges and tunnels, and pull over to the right.
On the other hand, they could make the doors out of a thin material, and then drive through them, if needed.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35303748)

I guess California must have different actual weather than their tourist bureau promotes. Otherwise, are they just keeping the fire engines in the building to ensure the paint doesn't fade? Seems like bulk fire engine red paint is probably cheaper than whatever system links up and opens garage doors.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304884)

I guess California must have different actual weather than their tourist bureau promotes.

In the summertime, you don't want anything to do with a metal object that large that's been sitting outside all day.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303388)

"What seismic level are they talking about? A 2, 3, 4, 5, or what?"

what do you think? do you really think it would go off on a 2,3 or 4?

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304158)

Indeed, and it probably shouldn't go off for a 5 either. I remember years back when we had that 5.3 magnitude quake, there was some property damage, but all in all pretty minimal, you'd have to be in a really strange situation for that to be worth mentioning. Anything built to code down there is going to be able to handle an earth quake in the low 5 range without any problems at all.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304368)

hmmm, I was thinking about that. TO my thinking, the min you want is one that doesn't casyue damage, but can be felt easily, and only happen once or twice a year. This way you could have a cheap built in testing process with no harm.

Hey, we got a 5.3* and the garage doors didn't opne.

*I really don't know what number to use, off the cuff 5.3 seems a good one. The the earthquake studying people choose it.
Sorry about that, I just got done reading Zap Brannigan quotes.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35304278)

I don't recall where I read it, but I believe it is OVER 9000!!!!

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (1)

styrotech (136124) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305046)

Richter magnitude is only important to seismologists and has very little bearing on how serious an earthquake is. It is a measure of the energy released - not how bad the shaking is.

Any early warning system will be calibrated by acceleration and the magnitude won't come into it.

No instruments measure the richter magnitude directly - they measure the shaking and the magnitude is calculated after the fact based on lots of those readings taken in different places.

I hope the media (and the public) would stop referring to the Richter scale so much and use things like peak ground acceleration and/or modified mercalli scales etc to describe how bad an earthquake is.

eg the latest earthquake in Christchurch NZ (a 6.3 magnitude aftershock) had a higher peak ground acceleration (1.88g) than recorded anywhere in the original 7.1 magnitude quake last september (1.26g). Correspondingly it caused a lot more destruction.

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303434)

You should check out Nova Science Now on PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/ [pbs.org]

They had a segment on this last night. I am sure they have an article about it, but what would /. be without indirect sources?

Re:Interesting idea, horrible article (4, Informative)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303470)

You should check out Nova Science Now on PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/ [pbs.org] They had a segment on this last night. I am sure they have an article about it, but what would /. be without indirect sources?

Yep... here it is.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/earthquake-detection.html [pbs.org]

And (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303080)

shutdown -P now

Re:And (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303176)

Oh, dear. I hope it's not running on Windows (and instead on some dedicated *nix server). We'd be setting ourselves up for a doosie.

Re:And (4, Funny)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303328)

I'm sure they understand that Windows are one of the first things to go during an earthquake, and you don't want to be anywhere around them.

Re:And (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304454)

Oh, dear. I hope it's not running on Windows (and instead on some dedicated *nix server). We'd be setting ourselves up for a doosie.

Are you kidding? Us Windows users are already trained on how to deal with outages. It's you Linux wussies I'm worried about: "O NOESSS MY UPTIME!!" *slits wrists*

Re:And (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303452)

OK, where you making an moderately clever Linux joke, or a brilliant Earthquake joke?

You would have to really trust it (2)

pudding7 (584715) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303120)

Meaning, no false alarms. Set the thresholds such that it doesn't go off for undetectable or even very minor quakes. With only seconds to act, people need to feel confident in reacting without a second thought. If the alarm sounds and the teacher says "Hmmm, let's see if it's really a big one before taking cover." then it's lost some of it's usefulness. Same with the automated stuff. It would be unfortunate to get to a point where the alarm goes off and doors roll up, gas is cut off, etc and people immediately think "Crap, not again. Now I have turn the gas back on and close the damn doors."

Re:You would have to really trust it (1)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303242)

If the alarm sounds and the teacher says "Hmmm, let's see if it's really a big one before taking cover." then it's lost some of it's usefulness.

Heck, it's lost all of its usefulness in that case. But don't forget that schools will have drills, too, with response compliance assessments, so the suggested scenario of wait-and-see is unlikely.

Re:You would have to really trust it (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303296)

Just st it to go off at 5.0 or higher.
In frequent enough not to be a hassle, frequent enough so you can exercise the system,.

Re:You would have to really trust it (5, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303744)

As far as I can see, there's not much chance of false alarms unless someone drops something heavy right next to one of the seismometers or something. This is detecting actual earthquakes. The chances of actual false alarms are pretty low. The earth is shaking somewhere. In fact, this is data seismologists already gather as a routine.

The difference here is that it's propagating out an automated warning that can be responded to automatically to nearby locations. The key is "automatically". As in, people don't need to react. You'll only get a minute or two of warning at best - you want this to be automated.

Signal hits the fire station, and the fire station opens the doors immediately (so the quake can't jam them shut if power is lost or the doors get shaken out of track, for example). Alarm tells the firefighters to go get in the truck and pull it into the parking lot in case the building collapses. That's a bunch of fire engines and ambulances you've kept in service when they're likely to be needed very, very soon.

Signal hits a hospital, and they spin up their generator (so it's already running if the Big One hits and they lose power) and sound a tone in operating rooms telling doctors the floors might shake so starting a delicate cut around the brainstem is a bad idea for a few minutes.

Signal hits a large commercial building, and the elevators all go to the nearest floor, open their doors, engage all friction locking mechanisms, and tell everyone to get out of the elevator right now.

Bridges might drop gates to keep people who are not on them yet off them. Water and gas mains might close some containment valves. Traffic lights might all turn red so cars stop. Bell goes off at the school telling the kids to get near a reinforced wall.

Nothing that people need to take conscious effort to react to, just automated stuff that makes the incoming quake a little easier to deal with. Also nothing that would cause all life to come to a complete stop. There'll still be enough gas and water pressure in the systems that most people wouldn't even notice the outage. Traffic would be stopped for a few minutes. The elevator alarm will shut off and people will get back in. And so on...

This is pretty useless if you're at the epicenter, but gives you increasing amounts of warning as you get further away. It also lets emergency personnel outside the quake zone know that they'd better start getting ready to head toward the epicenter, because they'll be needed very soon.

If The Big One ever hits, this might save a lot of lives and damage to a lot of useful rescue equipment miles from the epicenter.

Re:You would have to really trust it (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304224)

This really captures the usefulness (and limitations) of a system like this

Re:You would have to really trust it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35304570)

That's actually a pretty good (and thorough) example of the sorts of things that could be done with an automated system. I'd like to see a number of them put into place.

Re:You would have to really trust it (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304632)

And there is some interesting technology being tested that actually forecasts a shake 24-48 hours in advance.

It's expensive because you need to bury a kilometer or so underground.

Re:You would have to really trust it (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303870)

Actually it would be pretty good if it warned of any quake you could feel, not just the destructive ones. That way people would start to trust the system when they hear the alarm and then feel the shaking. It would also give them some idea of how much time they have to get out of whatever building they are in (so that the debris can fall on them properly).

Re:You would have to really trust it (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305304)

Heeeeyyyy I ttthiiinnkkkkkkk we arrre hhhHAAAvvving aaa ffffalssssse neeeegatttive heerrrrre!

Good thing Jindal's not in an earthquake zone... (1)

skids (119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303140)

...he'd have complained about silly "earthquake monitoring stations" and then gone and built a washaway sandbar under the Golden Gate bridge.

BTW, in case the article bores you, this [stanford.edu] is topical and a bit more fun.

Re:Good thing Jindal's not in an earthquake zone.. (1)

SilentStaid (1474575) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303424)

Thank you for that link! That was pretty neat. I especially like that they mail you a sensor for $50 USD. It's a bit beyond what most people would spend for an idle gizmo, but I imagine that having one in a classroom environment (especially in California) would be really interesting.

Not impressed. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303234)

Last time when there was this big media circus about an earthquake that was about to hit Memphis TN, they did not bother with these fancy nancy early warning detection system! The stores sold many cans of a patented earthquake repellent spray. It worked. The earthquake never hit Memphis, TN.

Re:Not impressed. (2)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303568)

Was it even earthquake season?

Please give me a twitter feed (1)

jordan314 (1052648) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303250)

I'd love to have a twitter alert, SMS or push notification when this happens too so that I could get out of the building. I followed @latimesfires during the station fire and it was really helpful.

Hows this for early warning! (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303408)

Hey! You people that live in California! Your going to have an earthquake at some point in your future!

Re:Hows this for early warning! (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304218)

I realize that you're joking, but up here in Seattle, we've been waiting for our massive earthquake for as long as I can remember. We get minor earthquakes more or less constantly, but you're not going to notice a magnitude 1 or 2 quake without specialized equipment. But, we do know that it's coming and it is pretty well established that it's going to be a huge one.

In our case all we're able to do is make sure that the building code adequately handles it, emergency responce is planned for and that there's some provision for handling the aftermath. I'm personally skeptical that a system like this would be of much use. You'd have to be within immediate earshot of the warning and immediately act on it to get any advantage at all from it.

I'd personally spend the money on preparedness given how limited the effect of this is likely to be.

Re:Hows this for early warning! (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305104)

Well from my limited understanding there is two problems with any such system.

1) You have no idea where the centre will be, thus you will have to create a large area of sensors in order to provide yourself with any warning.

2) The larger the distance you are away from the centre, the less devastating the quake will be (not including tsunami, that would be a separate warning system).

So, that means that the more warning you get, the less you need it. The less warning you get, the worse it will be. So as I see it your fscked anyway you look at it.

Re:Hows this for early warning! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304592)

"Hey! You people that live on Earth! Your going to have an earthquake at some point in your future!"

Fixed it.

Re:Hows this for early warning! (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305142)

Which makes me want to watch science fiction movies to see how many references there are earthquakes on other planets...

Marsquake Ahhh!

and... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303592)

The system consists of a Chuck Norris bobble head with a webcam pointed at it.

Re:and... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303918)

Better than the magic 8-ball they had before...

Re:and... (1)

suutar (1860506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304006)

Won't work. Even imitations of Chuck Norris's head do not bobble.

Re:and... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35305192)

No, but the web-cam will so it has the same effect.

Early warning? I'll give you one. (1, Flamebait)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303634)

If you build your city - or state - on top of 2 or more very big colliding earthplates. You will get quakes. If history has shown you that there will be earthquakes there... well... don't build there! Sjezus Christ. What good is a warning system that may or may not buy you minutes going to do extra for you when you just know you should not be living there on that scale in the first place. Want a solution that is actually the only good one just might not the one you'd like to hear: GTFO!

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35303738)

Brilliant. Also, avoid building anywhere there are hurricanes or cyclones, or floods, or tornadoes, or blizzards, or wildfires, or mudslides.

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303940)

Everyone always underestimates the volcano...

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305638)

Nah, you just force your way into an abandoned mine with an old Dodge truck and you'll be fine.

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35303830)

Want a solution that is actually the only good one just might not the one you'd like to hear: GTFO!

I've got no problem with people living in dangerous places.
I just wish they'd not seek federal funds when a hurricane/earthquake/volcano/whatever knocks some buildings down.

Anyone wanting to live in such areas should accept the risk, not come whining for handouts when the inevitable happens.

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35303850)

Why build your city where there are tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, mosquitoes?? If history has shown that there will be {natural disaster} there... well.. don't build there!

Yada, yada, yada. I'd take an earthquake in Cali over a blizzard in the NE any day of the week, oh not to mention the fact that blizzards are a fairly frequent occurrence, and earthquakes of the magnitude that would require even paying attention are centennial events.

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304246)

If you look at the US, it's hard to find anywhere that doesn't have earthquakes or some other natural disaster. Personally, I think it's more reasonable to build in earthquake country than in areas where it floods or gets hurricanes. At some point you hit the point where it's just not realistic to avoid the danger and have to focus on mitigating it. There have been some pretty substantial earthquakes back east, it's just that people forget about the 1812 New Madrid earthquake [wikipedia.org]

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (1)

Cinder6 (894572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304950)

To my lament (for other reasons), I live in California, but I've been to 46 other states. One very common reaction to "we're from California" is "oh no, I couldn't stand the earthquakes!" This has always puzzled me. I don't even notice the tiny earthquakes we get. I'm sure I'll witness another big one in my lifetime, but hurricanes appear far more frequent and seem to cause much more damage.

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35305028)

But quakes in this part of the country are so infrequent that our preparedness is probably no better than that of Haiti when they got hit.

Now if it's flooding or tornadoes, those are things we can deal with!

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304482)

Every place has earthquakes.
And you suggestion isn't an early warning system.

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304610)

If you build your city - or state - on top of 2 or more very big colliding earthplates. You will get quakes. If history has shown you that there will be earthquakes there... well... don't build there!

"Boy, it sure is strange that over a course of centuries, not one of millions of people had this idea for solving the problem."

It never occured to you that your simple solution isn't a big screaming clue that you don't know what you're talking about, did it?

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304910)

Yes, and then when we're all starving you'll tell us to go where the food is. Guess what?

It just so happens that mountains and valleys near oceans are great places to grow food. Plenty of water, stable climate during the summer. Before Silicon Valley was a tech center, it was very productive agricultural land. The Central Valley still is, and although it's further from the faults it would still have problems in a "big one", not to mention that it has huge 100-year floods.

In other words, there is no safe place.

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35305290)

People should feel free to build homes/businesses wherever they please, even at the base of a volcano if they so desire. But there is of course a catch to this, If you choose to build/live there YOU should shoulder the burden if something happens. As long as California is paying for this out of their pockets its their money to burn. I hope their not getting one dime of federal money. Maybe I'm heartless, but the same goes for Florida, New Orleans and everyone else, if you build in any danger zone (Hurricane, Tornado, Volcano, etc) YOU should pay for the aftermath (Insurance, Reconstruction, Warning Systems, etc). At most State/Federal governments should create low interest loan programs, but they should only pay out money when they are sure they will eventually get it back.

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35305534)

You're not only heartless, you're stupid. Where is this magical place that is not in a natural disaster 'danger zone'?

Re:Early warning? I'll give you one. (1)

microcuts (1991026) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305514)

If you build your city - or state - on top of 2 or more very big colliding earthplates. You will get quakes. If history has shown you that there will be earthquakes there... well... don't build there! Sjezus Christ. What good is a warning system that may or may not buy you minutes going to do extra for you when you just know you should not be living there on that scale in the first place. Want a solution that is actually the only good one just might not the one you'd like to hear: GTFO!

you tool. you absolute tool. clearly you're yet to understand how colonial settlement works as a concept

Depends on Communication Speed, Still Herd Issues (0)

eepok (545733) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303746)

The instruments will have information and do analysis in a couple seconds. The information will then have to be verified, sent out to communication distributors (by cell/satellite or internet), received, read, redistributed (word of mouth from those actually plugged in to the system) and then action taken to prevent injury. That's 30-45 seconds easy and only assumes 1 major distribution hop. If it's sent to my university's Text-Message alert system, that's another 3-5 minutes depending on human speed and cell carriers.

And even still, is it best to alert people of the smaller quakes? Would that incite panic as people stampede down staircases to get out of buildings? Yes, you're supposed to duck-and-cover upon alert, but let's be realistic-- People would rather be outside. If they get a heads up, they're heading away from buildings.

Re:Depends on Communication Speed, Still Herd Issu (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304520)

wow. I love it when a poster has a long drawn out post that basically says "I don't understand this, and hear are some problems."

And in many places, outside is more risky then inside. Falling glass will shred you in half

A practical system with a good track record (2)

mjpvirtual (1353211) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303802)

Portions of the system have been in operation since 2001. There have been several moderate and many small events. The system has produced no false positives or negatives, so far. It works by detecting the P-wave (6.2km/s), analyzes it to estimate the intensity of the coming S-waves (3.6km/s), and automatically triggers protective measures if the intensity is expected to exceed MMI V. It does not estimate earthquake magnitude, since that tells you nothing about the intensity at your location. The P-waves convey about 6% of the earthquake's energy; the rest is conveyed by the S-waves. The P-waves provide a natural warning that you're about to experience strong shaking.

The warning time varies from 0 (at the epicenter) to many seconds farther away. A networked system provides up to 1 second of warning for every 3.6 km from the epicenter. This is enough time to protect equipment and give people a chance to prepare themselves.

Re:A practical system with a good track record (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304298)

The problem though is that there's a significant drop off in intensity related to the distance. Which means that by the time you're far enough away from the epicenter to be able to actually use the information, chances are that the intensity is low enough that it's more of a minor nuisance.

Re:A practical system with a good track record (2)

mjpvirtual (1353211) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305004)

You're assuming that nothing useful can be accomplished in a few seconds. The applications in Coachella all complete in less than 10 seconds. A few seconds is plenty of time to duck under a table.

As for epicentral distance, the intensity drops 90%/100km after the first 100km. If you're 200 km from a magnitude 7 event, the intensity may be low enough to not matter, unless you're up-rupture, or on alluvial soil, or at convergence zone for shockwave reflections, etc. If you're in the SF Bay Area you're less than 100 km from likely epicenters, so it's a few seconds of warning or nothing.

Large events mean large rupture. If you're up-rupture you'll see more intense shaking than at the epicenter, not less. Simple metrics like distance from the epicenter provide no guidance about intensity.

Eathquakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35303816)

At a place I once worked there was a sign on the wall,
  In case of Earthquake, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye because you won't have time to get out of the building

(yes it was an earthquake prone area, 80 years ago a 7.8 magnitude quake destroyed the 2 cities.)

Installed and Operational (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35303970)

12 out of 120 stations are "up and running". So 10% operational is as good as 100%? Brought to you by the state that can't pay its bills.

Re:Installed and Operational (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35304564)

The death star doesn't need to be completely built in order to be fully operational.

Have you learned nothing from our lord and master, the Emperor Palpatine?

planned destruction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35304220)

I like the idea of a warning system.

However, I don't understand why people live in a place that is expected to be destroyed by an earthquake.

why not... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35304354)

keep the trucks outside the building all the time? If you think there's gonna be a massive quake someday wouldn't it make sense?

Re:why not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35304510)

keep the trucks outside the building all the time?

They tried, but got tired of always finding it up on cinderblocks with the wheels missing. Not to mention the broken side window and missing stereo.

Obligatory XKCD comic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35305092)

Posted anonymously so as not to karma-whore.

Seismic Waves [xkcd.com]

W6FXN Seismic Repeater (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 3 years ago | (#35305394)

One of the reasons I got my armature radio license was the W6FXN repeater at Buzzard Peak near Cal Poly Pomona which was tied to the Running Springs seismic station. When the station detected significant earth movement, the repeater would key up and repeat the audio modulated seismic tone in the background. Depending on the geometry, that provided up to about 30 seconds of warning for areas of southern California. There was talk at one point of building a network to provide a comprehensive early warning system for southern California but little interest from potential end users.

Listening to the seismometer's tone modulated output was interesting. With experience you could hear the difference between the S and P waves and it was sensitive enough to detect weapons tests at the Nevada test range as well as large earthquakes in the western hemisphere.

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