Allen CV
Seismo Lab
Earth & Planetary
UC Berkeley

Older press coverage

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December 18, 2015:
US Congress provides $8.2 million for earthquake early warning

Lawmakers included $8.2 million in funding for an early-warning system for earthquakes on the West Coast, a more than $3 million increase over last year. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) called the spending a “very substantial sum in these budget-constrained times.”

But don’t expect the work to be done overnight. Schiff has said it would take another $30 million or so to finish building the system, and an additional $16 million a year to run it. “We’ve gone a long way with this warning system, and I’m hopeful over the next few years we’ll have it fully installed,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona), who is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for earthquake programs.

What California stands to gain from Congress' budget deal: Big boost toward earthquake early-warning system

Full article
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Congress is finally waking up to the need for better earthquake preparedness in the Pacific Northwest

Seattle Times editorial - January 4, 2016
Full article | Download pdf

More on the earthquake early warning project

December 15, 2014:
US Congress provides $5 million to start transition to public ShakeAlert

Congress OKs $5 million for state’s quake early-warning system

Congress has approved $5 million to speed development of the West Coast’s earthquake early-warning system,

a network of seismic sensors that could give Californians up to a minute of warning when the ground is about to shake from a distant quake.

The funds were included in the $1.1 trillion bipartisan spending bill passed by the U.S. Senate over the weekend. The money was added to the bill through the efforts of California’s congressional delegation after the network demonstrated success in August during the 6.0-magnitude South Napa quake, scientists said.

A completed system in California would cost $16 million a year to build, maintain and operate, said geophysicist Richard Allen, director of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and a leader in developing California’s network.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who pushed for Senate approval of the funds, called them “a down payment” and said she will seek more money next year. Download pdf

California receives U.S. funding for earthquake early-warning system

Download pdf

More on the earthquake early warning project

September 3-5, 2014 - UC Berkeley

Third International Conference on Earthquake Early Warning:
Implementing Earthquake Alerts

Videos and presentations available on conference website

Opening session: Left to right: Dir. Richard Allen, state Sen. Jerry Hill, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Sen. Alex Padilla, Office of Emergency Services director Mark Ghilarducci, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and USGS acting director Suzette Kimball. Peg Skorpinski photo.

Political leaders agree:
The time for a statewide earthquake early warning system is now

Last week’s 6.0 Napa earthquake was a wake-up call not only for the wine country. The shaking was also felt in Sacramento and San Francisco, galvanizing a host of politicians to go on record urging immediate funding for a statewide earthquake early warning system. more
UCB Newscenter

Quake alerts' success spurs effort to complete early-warning system

September 3, 2014 - Los Angeles Times - Reporting from Berkeley

When the 6.0 earthquake struck Napa County last month, a computer at a university lab here raced to warn agencies across the Bay Area.

BART received an alert ordering trains to stop. San Francisco 911 operators had eight seconds to brace for an onslaught of calls. UC police managed to send out a "code red" on their radio system before the shaking started.

more from the LA Times or download pdf and graphic

Top quake researchers push for statewide early warning system

The Napa Earthquake was an important reminder that an early warning system is much needed in California. Some of the top researchers in seismology and lawmakers were at the University of California, Berkeley to talk about how to make that a reality sooner than later. more...ABC7

Coverage also appeared on KPBS Online and NBC Bay Area Online. Broadcast stories aired on KCRA, KTVU, and KGO TV (link to videos).

Following the Napa quake...

Calls for a public warning system

San Francisco Chronicle:
Activate the warning system

San Francisco Chronicle Editorial - August 26, 2014

Moments before the Napa earthquake rumbled through the region, plate-size seismc detectors shot out a quick warning that shock waves were seconds away. It was forceful evidence that a pilot alert system is an essential public safety tool in quake-prone California. more

Richard Allen:
Use water bond for alert system

San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed - August 26, 2014

During Sunday’s Napa earthquake, a warning was issued. It provided seconds to tens of seconds warning to a few selected users across the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, the public did not get the warning. The technology exists; there should be a public warning system just as there is in Mexico, Japan and China. more

Senator Alex Padilla:
California should build earthquake early warning system

San Jose Mercury News Op-Ed - September 2, 2014

The next California earthquake is not a matter of if, but when. We also recognize that we may, in our lifetime, experience "the big one." That became more ominous last year when the California Institute of Technology and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology published a study concluding, for the first time, that a statewide mega-quake involving both the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas may be possible.

One way to reduce injuries is to provide advance warning of an earthquake. California presently has a demonstration earthquake early-warning system more

Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff: Time to build a quake early-warning system for California

Los Angeles Daily News Op-Ed - September 8, 2014

Ten seconds might seem insignificant, but it can mean the difference between life and death when an earthquake hits. Ten seconds is enough time to slow or stop trains and cars; turn off supplies of oil, natural gas and chemicals; stop elevators and open their doors; and secure sensitive computer data. Even less warning would allow hospital staff to protect patients and people to safely take shelter under tables and in door frames.

We already have the technology to send earthquake warnings to phones across an affected region, distribute them through public radio and television and trigger automatic steps to protect critical infrastructure.

An earthquake early-warning system exists in countries like Japan and Mexico and is currently being adapted for the United States by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in conjunction with the seismological laboratories at Caltech, UC Berkley and the University of Washington. more

August 24, 2014

M6 South Napa Earthquake:
Warning issued scross the San Francisco Bay Area

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow - Moment of Geek:
Quake warning provides extra life-saving seconds

August 25, 2014 - Rachel Maddow reports on an earthquake early warning system that helps provide a few life-saving seconds before the effects of an earthquake are felt. View on the MSNBC site

Napa, Calif., quake: Early-warning system gains support

Los Angeles Times - Aug 25, 2014

The success of an early warning system during Sunday's 6.0 magnitude Napa earthquake is generating more support for the fledgling network.

Scientists at UC Berkeley released a video showing an earthquake early-warning system that sent an alert before the magnitude-6.0 Napa earthquake Sunday morning. Officials said the system provided an alert 10 seconds before the quake was felt.

Though Napa would not have gotten a warning because of its proximity to the epicenter of the earthquake, Richard Allen, director of UC Berkeley's Seismological Laboratory, said the alert showed the promise of the technology.

more from the LA Times or download a pdf

Quake early-warning system could be built with water bond funds

San Francisco Chronicle - David Perlman - Aug 25, 2014

The money needed to complete California's proposed earthquake early-warning system could well come from the billion-dollar water bond issue now on the November ballot, lawmakers in Sacramento and the scientists developing it said Monday.

Sunday's early-morning Napa quake could serve as the impetus for locking down the estimated $80 million it would take to build the warning system that was approved by the Legislature last year and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown without funding.

"I'm hoping yesterday's earthquake shows everyone the urgency on which to act to secure the funding," said state Sen. Alex Padilla

more from the Chronicle or download a pdf

CBS Evening News:
How valuable is California's early warning system for earthquakes?

AUGUST 25, 2014, 6:33 PM - A new early warning system developed at UC Berkeley provides a heads-up 10 seconds before an earthquake hits. Similar systems are already in place in Japan and Mexico, but the Berkeley team says $80 million is required to make sure the message reaches those who are in harm's way. Carter Evans reports. View on the CBS site

FOX News:
Justice with Judge Jeanine Pirro:
California rocked by 6.0 earthquake

Broadcast AUGUST 24, 2014 View on the MediaOne site

MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports:
Early-warning system signaled Napa quake

August 27, 2014 - Richard Allen, director of UC Berkeley’s Seismological Lab, talks about the early warning alert system his lab developed to detect earthquakes, and how the technology can be built upon for the future. View on the MSNBC site

California's Earthquake Early Warning Legislation: SB 135 - Sen. Padilla

September 24, 2013:
Gov Brown signs bill to create Californian earthquake early warning system

Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 135 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), which requires that the Office of Emergency Services develop a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system to alert Californians in advance of dangerous shaking.

"I applaud Governor Brown for his vision and leadership. We live in earthquake country. He understands that when it comes to earthquakes in California, it is not a matter of if, but when,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “With Governor Brown’s signature, the process of developing a statewide earthquake early warning system has begun,” said Senator Alex Padilla. more from the California Newswire or pdf

What does this mean?

The law requires the Governor's Office of Emergency Services to

  • develop a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system
  • develop standards for the system and a mechanism to review compliance
  • identify funding for the system. Funding cannot come from the state General Fund.
Full final text of the law

September 12, 2013: California State Legislature passes bill, on Governor's desk

San Francicso Chronicle - pdf
Senator Padilla - pdf
Los Angeles Times - pdf

Unanimous approval by legislature - bill language

From the SF Chronicle: Development and operation of an early- warning system that would swiftly alert Californians when a damaging earthquake ruptures the ground anywhere in the state received unanimous approval by the state Legislature on Thursday.

The bill by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima (Los Angeles County), is expected to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, legislative aides said.

Early versions of an earthquake early-warning system similar to one that is already operating in Japan have been under development and testing by scientists at UC Berkeley and the U.S. Geological Survey in Los Angeles for the past 15 years.

August 7: Assembly Governmental Organizational Committee Hearing - bill passes

The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee today approved Senate Bill 135 by Senator Alex Padilla (D­Pacoima) on a bipartisan vote of 13 to 0 to institute an earthquake early warning system. ...more from Padilla's office or pdf

May 28, 2013: California State Senate passes earthquake early warning bill

more from the San Francicso Chronicle or pdf

The California State Senate approved Senate Bill 135 today, which would require the development of a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system in California.

"A fully developed earthquake early warning alert system would provide Californians critical seconds to take cover, assist loved ones, or pull over safely to the side of the road. It could allow time to stop a train and power down other critical infrastructure," said Senator Alex Padilla. "We all know a big quake will hit again in the future. We should be smart and use our science and technology to detect seismic activity and alert people in advance of destructive shaking," Padilla added.

May 24: Senate Appropriations Committee passes bill

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would create an early earthquake warning system for California. The bill, SB 135 was approved 7 to 0. The bill creator, Senator Alex Padilla worked with legislators from both sides of the isle to create a bill with bipartisan support. ...more from KCOY or pdf

Apr 23: Senate Natural Resources Committee Hearing - bill passes

The Senate Natural Resources Committee today approved SB 135 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima). The vote was 9–0. The bill would require the development of a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system in California. The measure now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. ...more from San Diego Scoop or pdf

Apr 9: Governmental Organizational Committee Hearing - bill passes

The Senate Governmental Organization Committee today approved SB 135 by Senator Alex Padilla (D­ Pacoima). The vote was 10 – 0. The bill would require the development of a comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system in California. The measure now goes to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration. ...more from Padilla's office or pdf

Jan 28: Padilla introduces bill

An early warning system that flashes imminent danger that a damaging earthquake is about to strike is ready to operate in California, seismic experts said Monday as a legislator introduced a Senate bill to develop the first $80 million system across the state. ...more from San Francisco Chronicle or pdf

Sounding the Alarm:

An early warning system would save thousands of lives when the next major earthquake hits. But will California find the money to implement it?

May 1, 2013
Azeen Ghorayshi, East Bay Express

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, the Pacific Plate, just off Japan's northeast coast, suddenly thrust downward, unleashing a monstrous, 9.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked the country for the next six minutes. The massive Tohoku quake and resulting tsunami are believed to have killed at least 16,000 people and injured 6,000 more. Another 2,600 people are still missing and presumed dead. The quake was the most powerful to ever strike Japan, and was the fourth-largest ever recorded. It also was the first earthquake to be heard in outer space, and was the most expensive natural disaster in human history, generating $235 billion in total damage. But there was a silver lining, if you could call it that: Tohoku was also the first time that Japanese citizens were given the precious, if limited, gift of time. ...more from the East Bay Express or pdf

"Seismologists don't like to make very many predictions," Allen said. "But I will make you one prediction, and that is that we will definitely build an early warning system in California. The only real question is whether it's immediately after the next big earthquake, or whether we actually manage to build it before."

UC Berkeley helping make BART quake-ready

Will Reisman, September 27, 2012, San Francisco Examiner

Operating a transit system in one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the country can be a perilous task. Knowing this, BART is taking no risks.

Working with UC Berkeley, the transit agency is the first in the nation to install an automated early warning earthquake system, which will provide BART with precious extra seconds to slow down or stop trains before a temblor hits the tracks. ...more from the San Francisco Examiner or pdf

US Scientists Testing Earthquake Early Warning

Alicia Chang, September 20, 2011, New York Times

Elizabeth Cochran was sitting in her office when her computer suddenly sounded an alarm.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

A map of California on her screen lit up with a red dot, signaling an earthquake had struck. A clock next to the map counted down the seconds until shock waves fanning out from the epicenter north of Los Angeles reached her location in Pasadena: 5-4-3-2-1.

Right on cue, Cochran felt her chair quiver ever so slightly from a magnitude-4.2 that rumbled through Southern California on Sept. 1. ...more from the NY Times

Underground column of molten rock found at Yellowstone

September 8, 2010
by Lynne Peeples

A plume of molten rock rising from deep beneath Yellowstone National Park is probably what is fueling the region's volcanic activity, as well as tectonic plate oddities across the Pacific Northwest, new research suggests.

Building on a growing body of evidence, Mathias Obrebski of the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues created the most convincing picture to date of a Yellowstone mantle plume - one that extends from about 621 miles below the surface of the Earth.

More... MSNBC site or download pdf

Yellowstone hot spot shreds ancient Pacific Ocean

September 2, 2010
by Michael Reilly

If you thought the geysers and overblown threat of a supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone National Park were dramatic, you ain't seen nothing: deep beneath Earth's surface, the hot spot that feeds the park has torn an entire tectonic plate in half.

The revelation comes from a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that peered into the mantle beneath the Pacific Northwest to see what happens when ancient ocean crust from the Pacific Ocean runs headlong into a churning plume of ultra-hot mantle material.

More... DiscoveryNews site or download pdf

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Is California due for another big one?

May 16, 2010
NBC Today Show

It's been over 20 years since San Francisco endured a magnitude 7.1 tremblor, leaving many to ask if and when the next major quake will strike. TODAY's Lester Holt reports, then speaks with seismologist Richard Allen.

View segment in the TODAY Show viewer or download the clip.

San Francisco prepares for "big" earthquake

April 15, 2010
by Ben Gruber

China's recent earthquake -- the fifth major global seismic event in four months -- is raising concern in quake-prone San Francisco that northern California may be next. Scientists are trying to prepare for ''the big one''. Ben Gruber reports.

View at Reuters or download video

Movers and Shakers

Seismologists create and early warning system to alert Californians before an earthquake occurs

by Elaine Pittman
March 2010 - Government Technology

Earthquakes are unlike hurricanes and floods because they can't be predicted. But what if there was warning system to alert residents that the ground would start shaking in 10 to 15 seconds? Although this doesn't sound like very much time, it would provide the opportunity for... more

Read the article online
at Government Technology
or download a pdf

Earthquake Early Warning System?

January 25, 2010
FOX News

Scientists working to establish detection system for California quakes

View at FOX News or download video

Scientists close on earthquake warning system

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
January 20, 2010 - page A1

After five years of research and experiments, scientists working on an earthquake early warning system say they should soon be able to alert Bay Area residents as much as a minute before a distant quake reaches them.

Read more at SFGate.com or download a pdf

QUEST on KQED Public Media.

Predicting the Next Big One

October 12, 2009
by Amy Standen
KQED Quest

It's been twenty years since the Loma Prieta Earthquake ravaged downtown Santa Cruz and damaged San Francisco's Marina District and the Bay Bridge. QUEST looks at the dramatic improvements in earthquake prediction technology since 1989. But what can be done with ten seconds of warning?

Visit the KQED Quest site or download audio

Scoping Out Unseen Forces Shaping North America

by Richard Kerr
September 25, 2009 - Science NewsFocus

As it sweeps across America, the USArray network of seismometers is revealing an impressive but often befuddling subsurface menagerie of slabs, drips, and plumes. Clearly, the great blobs and chunks of rock rising, sinking, or just floating beneath the surface of the western United States bear some relation to overlying mountains, basins, and volcanic outpourings, but even the avalanche of new data can't always resolve exactly what the imaged features are or how they are shaping the surface. Already, the new images have added fuel to a long-running debate over the existence of mantle plumes, tall columns of hot rock rising thousands of kilometers from deep in the lower mantle like smoke from a stack. more...

Read the article online at Science or download a pdf

Detecting earthquakes before they happen

May 29, 2009
CBS SmartPlanet

Can we detect earthquakes before they strike? Richard Allen has created Elarms, a suite of algorithms designed to measure real time seismic data and then rapidly detect the initiation of an earthquake 5-10 seconds before it occurs-long enough to make a difference.

Visit SmartPlanet or download video

Read the story at
the NewScientist
download a pdf

Listening to the Earth's deepest secrets

by Rachel Courtland
April 7, 2009

GARY ANDERSON was not around to see a backhoe tear up the buffalo grass at his ranch near Akron, Colorado. But he was watching a few weeks later when the technicians came to dump instruments and insulation into their 2-metre-deep hole.

What they left behind didn't look like much: an anonymous mound of dirt and, a few paces away, a spindly metal framework supporting a solar panel. All Anderson knew was that he was helping to host some kind of science experiment. It wouldn't be any trouble, he'd been told, and it wouldn't disturb the cattle. After a couple of years the people who installed it would come and take it away again.

He had in fact become part of what is probably the most ambitious seismological project ever conducted. Its name is USArray and its aim is to run what amounts to an ultrasound scan over the North American continent. more...

Do you want a 20-second warning?

If we adopted UC Berkeley seismologist Richard Allen's breakthrough earthquake alarm system, your cell phone and laptop could alert you to the Big One before the shaking begins.

By Erik Vance
Photographs by Alex Fradkin

Published in San Francisco November 2008

Read the article at San Francisco magazine or download a pdf.

Earthquake early warning around the world,
but not yet in California

In December 2007 at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union a special session was convened on earthquake early warning around the world. While several countries - Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, Mexico and Romania - now have earthquake early warning, the seismic networks in California are still lacking for such systems. Here is some of the resulting coverage.

Editorial - 12/15/2007
A few seconds warning could save lives, and all for just $2 or $3 per person

Download a pdf of the editorial.

California's earthquake warning system lags those in Europe, Japan

Visit the SF Chronicle or download a pdf.

State lags in early warning system, quake experts say

Visit the Sacramento Bee or download a pdf.

Breaking New Ground

Can earthquakes be predicted? Northern California researchers are now identifying the slow-moving clues that may foreshadow violent quakes. Their work may provide even a few seconds of warning to open elevator doors, slow down trains or alert firefighters.

This 10 min segment aired on public television in September 2007. ElarmS is the topic of the final third of the show.
KQED Quest website

The Next Big One

This article by Joel Achenbach explores the problem of earthquake hazard on the centennial of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. His journey starts on the UC Berkeley campus at Memorial Stadium and takes him around the world.

Read the article at National Geographic.

National Geographic Magazine, April 2006.

Big One's first jolt might be a lifesaver
Researchers say fast computer analysis could allow quake alert in early seconds

Following the publication of our work on deterministic rupture in Nature the media explored what this could mean for earthquake early warning systems. This story by David Perlman appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle November 10, 2005.

Visit the SF Chronicle or download a pdf.
More of the press coverage.

Earthquake Alerts: Buying a Few Precious Seconds

In January 2004 our research of the potential for earthquake early warning was listed on Discover Magazine's Top 100 Science Stories of 2003.

Read more at Discovery or download a pdf.

New Software Gauges the Size of Imminent Earthquakes

May 2, 2003

In 2003 we published an article in Science presenting our results of rapid earthquake magnitude determination and proposing that this could be used to build an earthquake early warning system.

Visit the NYT Archives or download a pdf.
More of the press coverage.

Shaking up system of quake predictions
Pair's alarm could save people, buildings

May 5, 2003

More on the 2003 article in Science.
Visit the SF Chronicle Archives or download a pdf.
More of the press coverage.