Twitter teams with USGS to detect earthquakes

- The U.S. Geological Survey prides itself on being first with earthquake alerts thanks to its nearly 2,000 real time sensors.

But since most of those are in the United States, a temblor can go unnoticed especially in remote parts of the world. So to close that information gap, the USGS has increasingly turned to Twitter and its hundreds of millions of users for help – effectively creating an ad hoc detection system.

Together, USGS seismologist Paul Earle and software developer Michelle Guy were tasked with looking at how Twitter data could be used for earthquake detection and verification. By using Twitter’s Public API, they used the same time series event detection method they use when detecting earthquakes, according to a blog post this week from Twitter Communication Manager Eliane Ellis.

In a 2011 paper on using Twitter, Earle, Guy and another author found that Twitter messages came through within tens of seconds after the initial shaking and that a time series of Tweets with the word earthquake could identify when the worst shaking occurred.


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