Warning system may provide precious seconds before earthquake hits

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on September 20, 2011 at 6:06 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 20 at 6:21 PM

SEATTLE - A computer program that counts down to violent shaking could possibly give the West Coast a warning before a major quake hits.

Using the so called "World Series" earthquake that hit San Francisco back in 1989 as an example, this new technology would have given the city more than 20 seconds of warning before the quake hit.   

That scenario is what's being used by developers at the University of Washington, the University of California at Berkley and Cal Tech.

According to Paul Bodin, a Research Professor in Geophysics at the University of Washington, the system could be in place here in Washington in about three years.

Washington' s early warning system would focus on the large subduction zone earthquakes off our coast, similar to the massive quake that hit northeastern Japan back in March. The system here would use GPS to monitor large coastal land movement, and integrate that data with seismometers to determine the size and speed of the quake.

In Washington's case, there could be up to five minutes warning. But warnings may still come just seconds before the shaking starts.

The system is now being tested in California, which has a more mature network of earthquake warning instruments.

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