UO's role in boosting earthquake monitoring gets help from USGS funds

Map shows locations of seismic sensors in Oregon
The 15 NSF seismometers in Oregon (large yellow symbols)

As part of the $4 million announced by the U.S. Geological Survey to help expand the West Coast “ShakeAlert” earthquake early warning system, the University of Oregon will hire a new person to help the Department of Geological Sciences place and monitor ground sensors in the state.

The USGS previously spent $1 million toward the purchase of new sensors for some parts of the early earthquake warning system. The UO, meanwhile, is getting closer to purchasing 15 sensors recently owned by the National Science Foundation with $670,000 provided earlier this year by the state of Oregon.

The new USGS funding was made possible when Congress increased its support of the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program for the earthquake early warning system. The USGS funding is split among the UO, the California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Washington. The UO will receive about $360,000 in the current fiscal year under the USGS package.

“With our generous share of the grant, we will be able to support a new, full-time project manager/field engineer and support faculty members in our department who are contributing to the research and development of a U.S. West Coast earthquake early warning system," said Douglas Toomey, who leads the state of Oregon's participation in the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network based at UW.

The UO also will pursue the acquisition of additional seismic sensors to help close gaps, especially in southwestern Oregon, Toomey said.

Under new cooperative agreements, the USGS and the four universities will work together to improve the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system across the west coast of the United States, and will continue to coordinate across regional centers in southern California, northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

“This will allow us to continue developing and expanding the country’s first earthquake early warning system,” said John Vidale, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences and director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, in a story issued by UW. “This is just part of what we need to have a fully operational system, but it is an important step in the right direction.”

For more information on the new USGS funding, see: "USGS Awards $4 Million to Support Earthquake Early Warning System in California and Pacific Northwest."

-- By Jim Barlow, Public Affairs Communications