$38 Million: Earthquake Detection Systems in Oregon

Oregon lawmakers are working hard to create an early detection warning system for the upcoming Cascadia earthquake.

So far, all we know about protecting ourselves during a quake is to drop, cover, and grab on to whatever is nearby. Since none of us know where we’ll be when the 9.0 magnitude quake occurs, it’s vital that the state develops a reliable warning system.

According to Southern Oregon University’s Environmental Studies professor Eric Dittmer, who wrote about the upcoming quake in Medford’s Mail Tribune, an early warning system called ShakeAlert is currently being perfected by scientists to detect earthquakes and warn Oregonians before such events occur.

The ShakeAlert system, a project created through a collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, will cost about $38 million to implement and will require an additional $16 million in funding each year for maintenance. Pacific Northwest policymakers believe the benefit of keeping people safe far outweighs the enormous financial cost.

The Mail Tribune reports that a smaller-scale warning system is already being built in Medford. A strong motion seismic detector located atop Medford’s Roxy Anne Peak will help warn people throughout the Northwest immediately before a quake is about to occur. This earthquake sensor, produced in a partnership between geological researchers at the University of Oregon and the University of Washington, will detect the strength and direction of subduction events and immediately send related information to people’s cell phones via apps or collaborations with local cellular service providers.

For now, the Roxy Anne detector is buggy at best. According to University of Oregon Seismic Network Manager Leland O’Driscoll, there is still plenty of work to be done on the device, which has been found to pick up non-quake-related activity, including vibrations created by hikers stomping around on the mountain.

By Kiki Genoa