Earth and Planetary Science
EPS Atmosphere, Oceans, and Climate

Professor Richard Allen Cited in The Atlantic Magazine

Friday, March 17, 2017

Richard Allen was quoted in the most recent The Atlantic magazine for an article entitled "The Lifesaving Potential of Underwater Earthquake Monitors." The write-up delves in-depth into how earthquake early warning systems can save lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property by providing seconds to minutes of warning before shaking. 

The article discusses how researchers including Richard Allen and his doctoral student Qingkai Kong transform smartphones into earthquake sensors. Their app, MyShake, constantly runs in the background of a smartphone, paying particular attention to any vibrational profile that fits an earthquake and then relays this information along with the phone's GPS coordinates to the app's creators for analysis. Prof. Allen specifically mentions that the app is not intended to replace traditional seismic sensor networks like those run by the u.S. Geological Survey, but it could provide faster and more accurate warnings through vast amounts of crowd-sourced data. More than 250,000 people have downloaded the app and about 10,000 phones contribute seismic data every single day. Quicker warnings like these can be used to improve safety by complementing existing seismic sensor networks. San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has integrated Prof. Allen's earthquake warnings into its systems so that trains automatically slow down when they receive a signal that an earthquake is about to hit. The earthquake early warning system relies on the fact that the elctronic singlas from monitoring stations travel faster than seismic waves, giving the brakes time to act.

Richard Allen is professor and chair, Berkeley Earth & Planetary Science Department. 

For the full-length article please click here.