Twitter Aftershocks Shake-up USGS

United States Geological Survey now using Twitter data to potentially detect earthquakes

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    When a magnitude-5.8 earthquake rocked San Diego last week, the word spread like wildfire on Twitter just seconds after the shaking stopped – and the chatter lasted all day.

    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.

    Let us know what you think. Comment below, send us your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.