PSFK] Twitter states that people send out about 500 million tweets a day. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a government agency that tracks worldwide earthquakes, happens to sift through those half a billion tweets when tracking the geological movement of the Earth.
Through the USGs has 2,000 real time earthquake sensor units at its
disposal, but most of them are U.S.-based and don’t quite cover the
distance that millions of active Tweeters might. Therefore the use of
Twitter data can bring earthquakes to USGS’s attention when their
sensors have yet to detect an earthquake, or when their out-of-range
sensors might not have detected them at all.
As a global effort, USGS reviews Tweets in several languages,
monitoring for various words indicating the word for “earthquake.” The
use of Twitter allows USGS a more global approach to detect earthquakes.
USGS receives an email to alert them if there is Twitter activity
regarding an earthquake.
In a blog post,
Twitter Communication Manager Elaine Ellis stated that USGS was able to
locate a 2014 earthquake in Chile in a time span of less than 14
Tweets. She also states that “USGS staffers Paul Earle, a seismologist,
and Michelle Guy, a software developer, teamed up to look at how Twitter
data could be used for earthquake detection and verification.” She goes
on to say, "It’s also very cost effective for the USGS, because they use Twitter’s Public API and open-source software such as Kibana and ElasticSearch to help determine when earthquakes occur."
USGS found that Tweets regarding earthquakes are generally short—as
one might expect given the circumstances—typically coming in at under
seven words. The first wave of tweets also do not typically include
forwards, links with earthquake information or the magnitude of the
earthquake; these Tweets generally come after an earthquake. Most
initial Tweets happen to be as simple as “Earthquake?”.
USGS uses Tweets and their own equipment to monitor an average of 50
earthquakes a day or about 200,000 a year. By looking at Twitter data,
USGS is looking at speeding up their detection time. So don’t be afraid
to add your Tweet to the mix, you never know when your Tweet might have a
global impact. Read More