You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

When It Came to Aug. Earthquake, Northeasterners 'Felt It'

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, September 29 2011

Over 140,000 people used a U.S. Geological Survey input form to report feeling the late August earthquake in Virginia that may have been felt as far away as Maine.

At Nextgov, Joseph Marks reports that a USGS official recently said the tool — called "Did You Feel It?" — generates reports that are so accurate, researchers can use them to make estimates about an earthquake before getting official stats from their instruments.

Here's Marks, reporting on a talk delivered by USGS seismologist David Wald and arranged by the Woodrow Wilson Center's Science and Technology Program:

DYFI? now gets enough responses to most quakes that researchers can estimate the intensity, reach and origin point of a quake in a matter of minutes through online responses alone, Wald said, long before seismological data can give more definitive answers. When USGS geologists compare "shake maps" created by seismological equipment with maps created by DYFI? reports, the resemblance is almost spot on, he said.

Citizen reports on the intensity of quakes also can be extrapolated into crucial early damage assessments that take days or weeks to confirm through on-the-ground engineers' observations, he said.

In some cases, DYFI? reports can fill in information gaps when quakes hit regions that are not prone to seismological activity and where there is less high-caliber and high-cost detection equipment, Wald said.

Crowdsourcing in this case isn't the hot new thing — instead, it's something that researchers have come to rely on over time. Marks reports that DYFI? launched in California in 1999 and went nationwide in 2001.