NASA Testing GPS for Earthquake, Tsunami Detection

Site: NASA.gov

Government agencies want to use GPS technology for detecting earthquake and tsunami activity in the U.S., the space agency announced Tuesday. 

The real-time earthquake analysis for disaster mitigation network would use real-time GPS measurements from Oregon, California and Washington stations to pinpoint earthquake activity.

The National Science Foundation, Defense Department, U.S. Geological Survey and NASA helped to develop the network.

The USGS and NOAA detect and issue warnings on earthquakes and tsunamis.

NASA, USGS and NOAA will fully test the system this year, said Yehuda Bock, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s orbit and permanent array center in La Jolla, Calif.

The READI network will take information from 500 stations in the western U.S. to calculate earthquake characteristics such as location, the magnitude and details in regard to fault rupture.

NASA will use the system to develop early warning systems and follow hazards that occur around the Pacific Ring of Fire, said Craig Dobson, a NASA natural hazards program manager in NASA’s Washington-based earth science division.

The GPS system was used to conduct research during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and has since been developed by the Pentagon for military and civil positioning needs.

According to NASA, GPS data helps reduce the time needed to characterize large earthquakes and helps organizations predict whether or not a tsunami will follow an earthquake. 

Conventional seismic networks previously struggled to identify earthquake size but the GPS-based system is more likely to provide estimates in order to aid utility, medical and other first-response teams, said Timothy Melbourne, director of Central Washington University’s Pacific Northwest geodetic array.

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