Scientists cannot yet predict when the next deadly earthquake will strike, but emergency response authorities in California plan to unveil the first statewide quake warning system Thursday, which marks the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
The warnings will be issued in two ways: a cellphone app called MyShake and the more traditional wireless notification system that sends out Amber Alerts.
“The California Earthquake Early Warning System will marry a new smartphone application with traditional alert and warning delivery methods such as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The system uses ground motion sensors from across the state to detect earthquakes before humans can feel them and will notify Californians so that they can “Drop, cover and hold on” in advance of an earthquake,” the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said in a press release announcing system launch on Thursday.
BELOW THE RUMBLE of passing cars, chirping birds, and rustling leaves, the Earth is constantly humming. This geologic symphony is driven by the ever-sloshing oceans that blanket nearly three-quarters of our planet, but tracing individual refrains from this watery orchestra has long posed a challenge.
Now, researchers have done just that, picking out a previously unknown seismic phenomenon that they have dubbed stormquakes. These events, described this week in Geophysical Research Letters, are pulses of seismic waves birthed from the ferocious energy in massive storms, and they can radiate thousands of miles across continents. (Learn about a different kind of strange seismic wave that rippled around the world.)
“I was surprised by what they saw,” says Göran Ekström, a seismologist at Columbia University who specializes in unusual earthquakes. Big storms are thought to produce a lengthy jumble of rumbles that radiate from coastlines. But in the new study, the team identified a discrete “burst of wiggles” from each stormquake that they can trace back to its origin off shore.