Scientists Study Earthquake Early Warning System - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Scientists Study Earthquake Early Warning System

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Japan, Mexico, and Romania already have early warning systems in place, for earthquakes. Scientists at the University of California-Berkeley are testing a prototype, that eventually could be used, here in Nevada.

Yesterday's magnitude 6.0 earthquake, in Napa, sounded an alarm at UC-Berkeley, ten seconds before the shockwaves were felt there. That time is even greater, the farther you are away from the epicenter. Experts say that time is precious, especially in densely populated cities, like San Francisco.

"If you're sitting on Market or Mission and you have that 30 seconds on your iPhone, for example, who wouldn't want that?" Graham Kent, Director of the Nevada Seismology Laboratory said.

Kent says a magnitude 9.2 earthquake in Vancouver Island would be felt, here in reno.   He says this technology could give us a three to four minute warning before the shockwaves hit.

"Our communications system can bring back the data from the seismometers via microwave, which is the speed of light, which can go to the moon and back in a second, vs. a seismic wave, which takes some time to travel," Kent said.

Nevada's last magnitude 6.0 earthquake happened in Wells, in 2008. Kent says one is bound to happen in the Truckee Meadows.

"This type of event is very possible," Kent said. "Not only possible, it will happen. It's just a matter of the date and time."

11,000 earthquakes are reported in Nevada every year. A magnitude 6.0 is expected once a decade, and a magnitude 7.0 happens about every 30 years.  Getting an early warning system for those would require a higher density of instruments, and the IT system.

"One of the next steps, obviously, is getting that into an app and learning to push that information out to 50 million users," Kent said. 

Kent says an early warning system costs about $200 million and the only reason it's not already in place is because of funding.  He says getting a system up and running would likely take about ten years.

 Written by Paul Nelson

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