Early earthquake detection could save thousands, prof says

UO geophysics professor Doug Toomey spoke about the need for an earthquake early warning system.

Scientists say there is a 15 to 20 percent chance of an earthquake hitting the Cascadia Subduction Zone in the next 50 years, likely causing widespread destruction and tens of thousands of deaths in the Pacific Northwest.

Leland O’Driscoll, a seismic field technician who works out of the UO as a project manager of ShakeAlert, was recently featured in an article for The Oregonian about the earthquake detection process. Doug Toomey, a UO seismology professor, also was featured.

Oregon’s ShakeAlert system is a series of around 400 seismographic sensors spread across the state that warn system when an earthquake hits. Just a few seconds of warning can be enough time for individuals to take cover and for automatic systems to slow trains and shut off gas valves.

Several countries have already invested in earthquake detection systems. Thanks to Japan’s $600 million system, not a single train derailed during the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku quake in 2011.

“In many of those cases, those countries built those early warning systems after a major earthquake,” Toomey said in the story.

Since 2015, the UO has received $2.1 million in grants to bolster Oregon’s portion of the early-detection system for the West Coast.

For more, see “Oregon Earthquake Punctuates Need for Early Warning System”.

Toomey is Oregon’s lead participant in the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. His academic areas surround earthquakes, volcanoes and climate change. O’Driscoll is a manager with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.