Nature communications

Real-time earthquake monitoring using a search engine method.

PMID 25472861


When an earthquake occurs, seismologists want to use recorded seismograms to infer its location, magnitude and source-focal mechanism as quickly as possible. If such information could be determined immediately, timely evacuations and emergency actions could be undertaken to mitigate earthquake damage. Current advanced methods can report the initial location and magnitude of an earthquake within a few seconds, but estimating the source-focal mechanism may require minutes to hours. Here we present an earthquake search engine, similar to a web search engine, that we developed by applying a computer fast search method to a large seismogram database to find waveforms that best fit the input data. Our method is several thousand times faster than an exact search. For an Mw 5.9 earthquake on 8 March 2012 in Xinjiang, China, the search engine can infer the earthquake's parameters in <1 s after receiving the long-period surface wave data.