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Published February 2014 | Published
Journal Article Open

Rapid Earthquake Characterization Using MEMS Accelerometers and Volunteer Hosts Following the M 7.2 Darfield, New Zealand, Earthquake


We test the feasibility of rapidly detecting and characterizing earthquakes with the Quake‐Catcher Network (QCN) that connects low‐cost microelectromechanical systems accelerometers to a network of volunteer‐owned, Internet‐connected computers. Following the 3 September 2010 M 7.2 Darfield, New Zealand, earthquake we installed over 180 QCN sensors in the Christchurch region to record the aftershock sequence. The sensors are monitored continuously by the host computer and send trigger reports to the central server. The central server correlates incoming triggers to detect when an earthquake has occurred. The location and magnitude are then rapidly estimated from a minimal set of received ground‐motion parameters. Full seismic time series are typically not retrieved for tens of minutes or even hours after an event. We benchmark the QCN real‐time detection performance against the GNS Science GeoNet earthquake catalog. Under normal network operations, QCN detects and characterizes earthquakes within 9.1 s of the earthquake rupture and determines the magnitude within 1 magnitude unit of that reported in the GNS catalog for 90% of the detections.

Additional Information

© 2014 Seismological Society of America. Manuscript received 8 June 2012; Published Online 7 January 2014. We thank the hundreds of QCN volunteer hosts and the field crew, without whom this study would never have occurred. Many thanks to Dave Anderson whose support and augmentation of BOINC has allowed QCN to grow quickly. We thank Hiroo Kanamori and Dan McNamara for thorough feedback during the revisions of this manuscript. This research was supported in part by NSF EAR 1027802 and the New Zealand Natural Hazards Research Platform.

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