Just When You Thought You Were Safe from Twitter

United States Geological Survey now using Twitter data to potentially detect earthquakes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    USGS / Google
    The USGS is actually matching Twitter search data to seismographic information, because jesus, people, get a grip on yourselves.

    Just when I turn to the United States Geological Survey to assure everyone that Twitter hype is just a passing fad, the USGS goes and jumps on the Twitter hype bandwagon.

    "For felt earthquakes in populated regions, Twitter reports often precede the USGS’s publicly-released, scientifically-verified earthquake alerts," seismologist Paul Earle tells Ecopolitology.

    Meaning that Twitter's choice of a bird for its logo may actually be startlingly appropriate -- the Web service might be the proverbial canary in a seismically active coal mine.

    But it frustrates any of us tired of Twitter becoming a bigger story than the events being discussed on Twitter, like yesterday's puny little tectonic shift here in the Bay Area and today's follow-on aftershock.

    Turns out that, thanks to the new geographic location feature that identifies where a tweet comes from and software that looks for mentions of "earthquake," the USGS can look for quakes in places that aren't close to seismographs.

    In theory -- there is probably a correlation between a lack of seismograph machinery and, frankly, no one around to tweet. Unless Twitter adoption in, say, Nunavut is a lot more widespread than one would imagine.

    But, like birds, that hasn't stopped the USGS from developing the "Twitter Earthquake Detector" software, which, naturally, has its own Twitter account.

    Thankfully, the world's Twitter epicenter just happens to correspond to one of the world's densest collections of professional earthquake observers, so the Bay Area still has absolutely no excuse for freaking out about yesterday's Magic Fingers-level 4.1 rump shaker.

    Jackson West promises not to talk about Twitter for at least a week, assuming his editor doesn't demand more Twitter stories related to incredibly minor earthquake activity.