It’s been 23 years since the last major earthquake shook Los Angeles and caused some $10 billion in property damage. Now, a consortium of seismologists from universities along the west coast are working under the U.S. Geological Survey to build an early warning system for future earthquakes.
So, how does an earthquake warning system work? First, during an earthquake, there are two kinds of tremor waves: P waves and S waves. P waves are the initial tremors, and are less significant than the secondary (and much more severe) S waves. Furthermore, P waves travel at the speed of sound, meaning that modern GPS and communication systems travel faster than earthquakes. “That means it would take more than a minute for, say, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that starts at the Salton Sea to shake up Los Angeles, 150 miles away, traveling on the state’s longest fault, the San Andreas,” adds the Los Angeles Times. And in that minute, sensors along the fault and around the Southland can detect the changes and begin broadcasting alerts.
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