Science 3 min read

Scientists Discover GPS Indicator That Could Signal a Coming Megaquake

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Scientists at the University of Oregon have discovered a GPS indicator that could signal an impending megaquake.

To date, earthquakes are considered as some of the most deadly naturally occurring phenomena on our planet. Records show that around 50 earthquakes happen every day.

However, magnitude 2 earthquakes or Earth movements that are too weak to be recorded by instruments reportedly occur several hundred times a day around the world.

It is estimated that at least one major earthquake (magnitude 5-7) happens every month and bigger ones (magnitude 8 and above) occur once a year.

Unfortunately, despite the recent advancements in our technology, an instrument that can detect earthquakes before they actually occur is still yet to be developed.

But, by studying earthquake records which date as far back as the 1990s, researchers came across a piece of information that could potentially be used in creating systems for early detection of earthquakes.

GPS Indicator for Detecting Massive Earthquakes

According to the University of Oregon researchers, there’s a 10-15-second moment during an occurrence that signals a magnitude 7 or higher earthquake is about to strike.

Diego Melgar, a professor from the University of Oregon’s Department of Earth Sciences, and his team believe that this information is crucial to the enhancement of modern-day warning systems.

Melgar said:

“To me, the surprise was that the pattern was so consistent. These databases are made in different ways, so it was really nice to see similar patterns across them.”

In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the team reported that they analyzed databases containing over 3,000 earthquake data. Out of 12 major earthquakes that occurred from 2003 to 2016, they discovered that there’s a consistent GPS indicator pointing to a displacement acceleration between 10 and 15 seconds into the event.

However, while GPS stations are located in many fault lines across the world, they were never used in real-time hazard monitoring. He added:

“We can do a lot with GPS stations on land along the coasts of Oregon and Washington, but it comes with a delay. As an earthquake starts to move, it would take some time for information about the motion of the fault to reach coastal stations. That delay would impact when a warning could be issued.”

Melgar believes that the GPS data, coupled with the readings from underwater sensors, could strengthen the accuracy of warning systems to detect future earthquakes and help save more lives.

Read More: Scientists Discover Enormous Underwater Volcano On African Coast

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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