The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has announced grants totaling $6 million to three West Coast universities to prototype an earthquake early warning (EEW) system for the Pacific Coast.
Seismology teams at UC Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, and the University of Washington were each awarded grants of $2 million over three years to help develop an EEW system that is tailored to local fault systems and addresses issues of rapid detection, magnitude prediction, and warning delivery. The universities also will seek to develop partnerships with industry to raise funds needed to test their systems and solicit feedback from other experts on how the systems should be deployed.
Researchers at Caltech and UC Berkeley, for example, are working in collaboration with the Southern California Earthquake Center, ETH Zurich, and the U.S. Geological Survey to test ShakeAlert, an EEW system that, in the event of a major earthquake, opens a pop-up alert on computers that lists the location of the quake, its magnitude, and estimated time before tremors are felt. Funding from the Moore Foundation will allow UC Berkeley to accelerate data processing from its network of GPS monitors, enabling real-time processing needed for a rapid warning system, while seismologists and engineers at Caltech will work to improve estimates of shaking as a function of distance from a quake's epicenter and extend these estimates to include the impact on nearby buildings.
Earlier this year, the California Integrated Seismic Network estimated that a California EEW system would cost about $80 million over five years and that a Pacific Northwest system would cost approximately $70 million.
"The technology and scientific expertise exist to create a sophisticated West Coast earthquake early warning system even more advanced than Japan's now four-year-old system, which functioned well after the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku quake earlier this year," said Richard Allen, director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and a UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science. "We are gratified that the foundation is supporting research that will help us bridge the gap between the current nascent test [earthquake early warning] system in California and a full West Coast ShakeAlert prototype."