Bottom line: People love to tweet about earthquakes.
It’s that reason that the USGS has developed a Twitter-based earthquake detection system – to tap into a valuable and immediate information source.
“For felt earthquakes in populated regions, Twitter reports often precede the USGS’s publicly-released, scientifically-verified earthquake alerts,” USGS Seismologist Paul Earle told Ecopoliology.
The new geographic location feature identifies where a tweet comes from and software looks for mentions of "earthquake." The USGS can look for quakes in places that aren't close to seismographs.
“For earthquakes in sparsely instrumented regions, these detections could provide an initial heads up that an earthquake may have occurred,” Earle told Ecopoliology.
It works by aggregating tweets based on keywords and pulls them into a database and generates an e-mail report.
The developers realize that Twitter has its limitations and will not be replacing other USGS services any time soon.