Wed, Feb 23, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Scientists unveil quake early warning system

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff Reporter

Taiwanese scientists yesterday unveiled an “On-Site Earthquake Early Warning System” that they say could help mitigate quake damage and casualties.

The system was developed by the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction, the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE), the National Center for High-Performance Computing and the Central Weather Bureau, which began working on the project in 2008.

NCREE researcher Lin Pei-yang (林沛暘) said the system mainly focused on two types of seismic waves, known as P-waves and S-waves.

“P-waves travel between 6km and 7km and arrive first, generally causing less damage [than other wave types],” Lin said. “S-waves travel only 3km or 4km and hit after P-waves, potentially causing greater damage.”

Lin said the opportunity to prevent disasters comes during the short interval between the arrival of P-waves and S-waves.

To test the system, Lin said researchers used data collected during the 921 Earthquake in 1999, which was centered in Jiji (集集), Nantou County. Researchers found that residents in Dali (大里), 43km away in what is now Greater Taichung, would have had about 7 seconds to react to the quake.

People in Hsinchu, which is located about 105km from the epicenter, would have had 17 seconds. People 152km from Jiji, such as those in Taipei, would have 27 seconds to take appropriate measures.

The magnitude 7.6 earthquake killed 2,415 people and injured 11,305, and caused about NT$300 million (US$10 billion) in infrastructure damage.

Lin said the system could be incorporated into other disaster-prevention systems, such as earthquake alarm broadcasts and the automatic train protection system used by the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp.

Lin said the same technology has been used in Japan for 40 years, adding that the system needed more real-time testing before its benefits could be fully assessed.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER

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