New California quake alert system can warn you seconds before shaking starts

Yolanda Curtis
October 18, 2019

A magnitude 3.8 quake was reported Thursday evening at 10:34 p.m., six miles from Ridgecrest, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The fault has been relatively quiet for 500 years but now has begun to creep.

The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services says natural disaster early warning alerts will become publicly available statewide starting Thursday.

The quakes began July 4 near Ridgecrest, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) north of Los Angeles.

The 7.1-magnitude quake on July 6 was the most powerful in almost 20 years in the Golden State.

"I think we can feel pretty good about the fact that we have one of the most significant early warning systems in the world", he said.

Ross developed automated computer analysis of seismometer data to detect the huge number of aftershocks with precise location information, Caltech and JPL said in a press release. Ross said about 20 previously unknown crisscrossing faults were involved, which adds evidence that major earthquakes can be caused by a more complex process, not exclusively by a rupture on a single major fault line.

About 20 previously unknown crisscrossing faults were involved.

The earthquakes that hammered the desert town of Ridgecrest sent ruptures on a web of interconnected faults throughout the region, putting added strain on the Garlock Fault.

Japan developed the world's most advanced quake early warning system after the 1995 Kobe natural disaster, based on the same principles of physics as California's. "So, it's not just thinking about the largest, most damaging potential scenarios like events on the San Andreas, but remembering that there's a potential for hazard pretty much all over the place".

The warnings produced by the ShakeAlert system will be pushed through a smartphone app and the same wireless notification system that issues Amber Alerts.

People across California can receive quake warnings seconds before they feel shaking through a new cell phone alert system starting Thursday, the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta natural disaster. Rather, it uses numerous seismic stations to detect the start of an natural disaster and light-speed communications to send the data to computers that instantly calculate location, magnitude, intensity of shaking and create alerts to be distributed to areas that will be affected.

The alerts have been in development for years and last year were made broadly available to businesses, utilities, schools and other entities.

Depending on distance from the epicenter, the alerts may give warnings of several seconds to a minute before shaking arrives at a given location - enough time to duck under desks, pull a knife away from a surgical patient or shut down elevators, trains and industrial processes.

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