Earthquake early warning milestones
Earthquake alerts are rapidly becoming available to more people around the globe thanks to partnerships among scientists, policy makers and industry. UC Berkeley's role in the scientific development of earthquake early warning is recorded in our academic publications. Here, we detail some of the other milesones towards our goal of global earthquake alerts.
For information on how the earthquake early warning works, visit our Berkeley Seismo Lab Earthquake Early Warning pages.
Google now rolling out the Android Earthquake Alerts System globally
In 2020, Google launched the world's largest earthquake detection system based on technology built into Android devices. In 2021, the system started to deliver earthquake early warning alerts generated by Android's global detection system. Initially, in April, alert delivery started in New Zealand and Greece. Then in June, alert delivery expanded to Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Google is prioritizing launching in countries with higher earthquake risks, and to launch in more and more countries over the coming year.
Users receive "Take Action" alerts that take over the screen if you are in the strong shaking zone (MMI intensity 5 and higher). Users in the weak shaking zone (MMI intensity 3 and 4) receive "Be Aware" notifications that are more typical of other notifications that you might receive on your phone. Alerts are only sent for earthquakes with magnitude 4.5 or greater.
The Android Earthquake Alerts system continues to deliver alerts generated by ShakeAlert in the US, in California, Oregon and Washington.
With an alert on your phone, you can use a few seconds warning to drop, cover and hold on, before the shaking starts. (Animation courtesy of Google)
ShakeAlert coverage extended to Oregon and Washington
The ShakeAlert collaboration between Berkeley and Caltech was first funded by the USGS in 2006. In 2011, the collaboration extended beyond California to include the Universities of Washington and Oregon. This collaboration has been working towards public earthquake early warning across the three states for a decade. On May 4, 2021 this milestone was accomplished with public alerts now available across all three states. Congratulations to the ShakeAlert team at many institutions.
Google launches the Android Earthquake Alerts System
On August 11, 2020 Google announced that it was bringing global earthquake detection, earthquake information and alerting into the Android ecosystem. Adapting the MyShake concept, Android phones around the globe are now mini-seismometers able to detect earthquake shaking. Initially, the earthquake detections will feed information to people through Google Search, but the goal is to use the Android network to deliver alerts around the globe.
As part of the same announcement, earthquake alerts generated by the ShakeAlert early warning system will immediately be available on all Android phones in California. This provides another channel for people to receive these critical alerts. They are now available natively within Android, by downloading the MyShake app (iOS and Android), or through WEA..
Publications and IP
Richard Allen and Qingkai Kong at Google Android during their collaboration
MyShake 2.0 launches and delivers public earthquake alerts across California
On October 17, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that earthquake early warnings would now be available to the public across California using UC Berkeley’s MyShake app. Sponsored by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, a new version of MyShake was released with the capacity to deliver ShakeAlert warnings to the public. Overnight, MyShake was downloaded by hundreds of thousands of people across California on both Android and iOS platforms.
Publications and IP
Google licences the MyShake IP from UC Berkeley
Earthquake Early Warning: Advances, Scientific Challenges, and Societal Needs by Allen and Melgar in Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci.
ShakeAlert is "open for business"
In a press conference at the Downtown Berkeley BART station on October 8, 2018, the ShakeAlert partners announced that ShakeAlert was available to deliver earthquake alerts across California, Oregon and Washington. The BART train system in the Bay Area was one of the first test users of the warning system and demonstrated how the alerts could slow and stop the trains. But, there was no mechanism to deliver alerts to the public, yet.
Revised technical implementation plan for the ShakeAlert system — An earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the United States by Given et al, a USGS Open File Report.
MyShake citizen science smartphone app launches
The Berkeley Seismology Lab annouced the launch of its MyShake app at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Funded by the Moore Foundation, the freely available smartphone app turnes personal smartphones into a network of earthquake sensors. Global press coverage led to some 100,000 downloads within a few weeks, and MyShake became the largest seismic network with sensors distributed around the world.
White House summit on Earthquake Early Warning
In February 2016, the White House hosted a summit on earthquake resilience to promote the concept of earthquake early warning. UC Berkeley and other scientists, legislators, and users of the prototype system all spoke to the value ShakeAlert could provide in future earthquakes.
MyShake: A smartphone seismic network for earthquake early warning and beyond by Kong, Allen, Schreier, and Kwon published in Science Advances.
The T-larmS algorithm extends earthquake early warning to provide rapid local tsunami warning. The approach is described in Local tsunami warnings: Perspectives from recent large events by Melgar et al published in Geophys. Res. Lett..
Benefits and Costs of Earthquake Early Warning by Strauss and Allen, published in Seismo. Res. Lett..
Federal funding to start construction of ShakeAlert
In December 2014, the US Congress provided the first funding specifically to build ShakeAlert with a $5M appropriation of federal funding via USGS’s budget. Congressional champions included US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA.)
Berkeley hosts International Meeting on Earthquake Early Warning
Two weeks after the M6.0 Napa earthquake, the Berkeley Seismology Lab hosted an international meeting on earthquake early warning. Attended by scientists, industry partners and politicians, the meeting led to federal funding for ShakeAlert. During the summit, then Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom announced, "Disaster Preparedness is now my top priority. Whether through public education and outreach, advance warning systems, or protecting our infrastructure, we must leverage technology, innovation and the public will to revive our woefully inadequate disaster preparedness structure."
ShakeAlert provides warning in M6.0 Napa earthquake
The M6 Napa earthquake at 3:20 am on August 24, 2014, rattled the entire San Francisco Bay Area. Damage was mostly confined to the Napa area, but the entire region was reminded of the earthquake threat. ShakeAlert issued a warning to test users in the Bay Area, including BART, San Francisco Emergency Management, UC Police, and Google. The alert came from Berkeley’s ElarmS algorithm.
Technical Implementation Plan for the ShakeAlert Production System—An Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast of the United States by Given et al published by the US Geological Survey
The 2014 Mw 6.0 Napa earthquake, California: Observations from real-time GPS-enhanced earthquake early warning by Grapenthin, Johanson and Allen published in Geophys. Res. Lett.
Designing a Network‐Based Earthquake Early Warning Algorithm for California: ElarmS‐2 by Kuyuk and Allen published in Bull. Seismo. Soc. Am.
CISN ShakeAlert – An Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration System for California by Boese et al published in Early Warning for Geological Disasters - Scientific Methods and Current Practice
California passes earthquake early warning legislation
Sponsored by then State Senator Alex Padilla, California passed legislation to develop a public earthquake early warning system. The bill was later carried by State Senator Jerry Hill, when Padilla became Secretary of State.
Seconds Count: The United States should install an earthquake early-warning system now — and before the next big one hits by Allen was published in Nature
Earthquake Early Warning Summit following M9 Tohoku-Oki earthquake
In the devastating M9 earthquake in Japan an alert was issued across Japan before the shaking. Only weeks after this event, the Berkeley Seismology Lab hosted a summit with scientists, legislators, foundations and the private sector. At the summit, a plan was developed to implement a prototype early warning system in the short-term, with a long-term goal of delivering open public alerts in California, Oregon and Washington. The Universities of Washington and Oregon joined UC Berkeley and Caltech in the cooperative agreement with the US Geological Survey, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation made a $6.5M investment in the project to complete the development of the system. This summit was also the beginning of the development of legislation in California to provide early warning.
Seconds before the big one by Allen and published in Scientific American detailed how a U.S. warning system would work.
The ElarmS earthquake early warning methodology and its application across California by Allen was published in the special volume Earthquake Early Warning Systems. This publication detailed the methodology now at the heart of ShakeAlert.
The potential for earthquake early warning in southern California by Allen and Kanamori, was published in Science