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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New system estimates scale of quakes in minutes


TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Pref. — A system has been developed that can estimate the scale of crustal movement within minutes following a big earthquake, much faster than the system now widely used that takes more than five hours, according to government officials and academics.

The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and Tohoku University began testing the new system using GPS on Friday with the aim of starting full operations in fiscal 2013.

The system tallies data from 1,240 observation points across the country and calculates crustal movement in several minutes on the basis of per-second movement horizontally and vertically during an earthquake.

Under traditional methods analyzing only seismic data, the intensity of a temblor can be underestimated in the period immediately after an earthquake, the officials said.

At the time of the March 11, 2011, earthquake, the Meteorological Agency initially announced its magnitude was 7.9 but revised it dramatically upward to 9 two days later.

The new system could have estimated the preliminary magnitude of the 2011 quake at 8.7 based on data tallied in three minutes, the Geospatial Information Authority said, adding researchers are trying to enable the system to make a more accurate estimate five minutes after a quake.

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