Last week, California State Senator Alex Padilla introduced legislation to create a statewide earthquake early warning system. At a press conference in Los Angeles, Padilla and scientists from Caltech, UC Berkeley, and U.S. Geological Survey discussed the need for such a warning system based upon a recently-published study “concluding for the first time that a statewide California earthquake involving both the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas may be possible.”
Padilla said, “California is going to have an earthquake early warning system, the question is whether we have one before or after the next big quake.”
According to a press release following the event, the system would build upon the California Integrated Seismic Network. Seismologists envision a system that would monitor sensors throughout the state. The system would detect the strength and the progression of earthquakes, alerting the public with up to 60 seconds advanced warning before the ground begins shaking.
The initial cost estimate for the system is $80 million. Padilla said that with the magnitude 6.7 Northridge Earthquake claiming 60 lives and causing at least $13 billion in damage, the system is an intelligent investment.
The Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast released in 2008 predicted a 99.7 % likelihood of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in California in the next 30 years and a 94% chance of a magnitude 7.0.
From our perspective, it’s exciting to see the technology progressing to a point where pre-earthquake warnings could become a reality. We do hope the system will take advantage of emerging technologies and integration standards, and not be developed as a “one off” solution. While the price tag is significant, the potential lifesaving impact could be substantial.