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2013 Lawson Lecture: Abstract

The 2013 Lawson Lecture
Warning California: Science and Technology to Reduce the Growing Earthquake Threat

Dr. Richard Allen, BSL


What is earthquake early warning and how could it impact people in California? Researchers at the BSL, Caltech, the USGS, and their partners, are testing an earthquake early warning system for the state of California. This talk presents an overview of the algorithms, challenges, and collaborative science involved in rolling out a public system.

There is a growing threat from earthquakes in California and around the world. As our societies and infrastructures become more interconnected the potential long-term impacts of earthquakes also become more unpredictable. In this talk Prof. Richard Allen will outline some of the ways that the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory is developing the science and technology necessary to reduce future impacts through the delivery of earthquake and tsunami alerts. These alerts are available seconds to minutes before damaging ground shaking and allow individuals to take cover, automated systems such as trains and manufacturing processes to shut down, and an overall reduction of the recovery time following a big quake. A demonstration system is now running in California and the first users are developing their automated response. At the same time, new technologies are providing opportunities to improve warnings and deliver warnings in more locations around the world. These include high accuracy real-time GPS which can now track the rupture of faults, and harnessing the accelerometers in smartphones to detect earthquakes and transmit the warning ahead of the shaking.