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Seismic Waves from Earthquakes

The seismic waves that emanate from earthquakes include body waves and surface waves.

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What Does Sophie Sense?

What Does Sophie Sense?

Credit: USGS
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1906_San_Francisco_earthquake_seismograph.gif
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Check out the video below of Sophie the dog. It turns out that Sophie is an earthquake early warning system!

Amazing But True!

  • Sophie the dog is hanging out as her owner works. Suddenly, she runs out of the room. Next, the room begins to shake with an earthquake.
  • Earthquake early warning systems work the same way a dog does.
  • With a few minutes warning, people could move to a safer area, traffic could be kept from entering a freeway, manufacturing plants could be shut down and other precautions could be taken.
  • Some nations are implementing emergency alarm systems. However, there are pros and cons to this, including cost, unnecessary panic, and minimal losses.
  • Credit: J. Johnson
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alarm_dilemma.png
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Pros and Cons of implementing an earthquake early warning system [Figure2]

  • Humans can often sense the early seismic waves, but they don’t know what they’re sensing.

Explore More/Show What You Know/Can You Apply It?

With the links below, learn more about sensing seismic waves. Then answer the following questions:

  1. What do dogs and earthquake early warning systems detect before the earthquake appears to strike?
  2. Why does this work as an early warning for an earthquake?
  3. How close or far from the earthquake epicenter does an earthquake warning system work best and why?
  4. What would be the advantage of knowing that damaging seismic waves were coming only a few seconds to a few minutes ahead of them?
  5. Earthquake warning systems cannot predict earthquakes. What is the difference?

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