Moore Foundation Awards $3.6 Million for Earthquake Warning System

Moore Foundation Awards $3.6 Million for Earthquake Warning System

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has announced a $3.6 million grant to advance an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast.

Announced at the White House Summit on Earthquake Resilience, the funds will support research initiatives at the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Washington, and the U.S. Geological Survey focused on early detection of earthquakes, determining their likely magnitude, and providing a warning before shaking begins, with the goal of saving lives and, potentially, billions of dollars in damage.

Since 2011, the foundation has invested nearly $6.5 million to research, develop, and test a West Coast EEW System called ShakeAlert. The new funds will be used to advance a novel quake detection method based on the sensors used in smartphones to count a person's daily steps (Berkeley); develop a process to gather information from seismic networks and trigger prompt and reliable quake alerts (CalTech); and explore the implementation of a network of sensors on the ocean floor to provide early warning of earthquakes caused by the Cascadia subduction zone, the most likely source of a potentially catastrophic quake in the Pacific Northwest (UW).

Once implemented, the system will be able to provide several seconds to a few minutes of warning before shaking begins. It is hoped that such a warning will be enough to enable individuals, utilities, and companies to take appropriate action, such as halting elevators at the nearest floor and opening their doors, slowing down moving trains, and activating emergency systems.

According to the foundation, a total of $38.3 million is needed to implement a fully operational system for California, Oregon, and Washington, with another $16.1 million a year required to operate and maintain the system.

"We are proud to support this kind of catalytic scientific research, including the development of a ShakeAlert prototype that demonstrates the potential to save lives," said Moore Foundation president Harvey V. Fineberg. "Completing the implementation of a robust, West Coast-wide Earthquake Early Warning system requires ongoing commitments from the public and private sectors."