MyShake is the newest kind of earthquake detector app developed by researchers at UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory. It allows smartphone users to detect earthquakes by recording the shaking of the earth.
The main objective of researchers is to provide global seismic network by enabling sensors on smartphones to create a dense network that could one day provide warnings prior to earthquakes. Recorded data would also be used to understand earthquake processes in order to reduce the impact of quakes in future.
The app is free and can be downloaded from Google Play, follow this link. Once installed, the app automatically runs in background with a little battery power. It makes use of your smartphone onboard accelerometers and GPS to record the earth shaking in your area.
Does your smartphone has on board accelerometers?
All smartphones of our time are designed to measure movements with three built-in accelerometers. These accelerometers are generally used to sense the orientation of smatphone for screen rotation, display, video and gaming etc.
Common limitations of smartphone accelerometers
Smartphone accelerometers are not as sensitive as in-ground seismometers. Hence, they cannot replace traditional seismic networks but still they are powerful enough to record shakes of earth of more than magnitude 5.
A traditional seismometer can trigger earthquakes of magnitude of 2.5 or less which are usually not felt by human beings.
How damaging magnitude 5+ earthquakes are?
Earth quakes of magnitude 5 may cause minor damage whereas 5.5 to 6.0 magnitude earthquakes are slightly damaging to buildings and other structures. They can cover up to 9 or a few more kilometers area and are considered as moderate earthquakes.
Earthquake magnitude this app can trigger
As already said, the app can trigger earthquakes of above magnitude 5. Now following data will help you understand different magnitudes of earthquakes this app can detect:
- Great Earthquakes i.e. magnitude 8+. They can totally destroy communities near the epicenter and are estimated one in every 5 to 10 years.
- Major Earthquakes i.e. from magnitude 7 to 7.9 does serious damage, estimated 20 in a year.
- Strong Earthquakes i.e. from magnitude 6 to 6.9 causes a lot of damage in very populated areas. Estimates 100 each year.
- Moderate Earthquakes i.e. from magnitude 5 to 5.9 may slightly damage building and other construction, are estimated 500 each year.
The app cannot detect light & minor earthquakes i.e from magnitude from 3 to 4.9. These are the ones that are often felt but sometimes do very minor damage.
Now another point to consider is how the app will distinguish the earthquakes from other types of shakes such as vehicle, dancing, jogging etc.
The sources say that the app is powerful enough to analyse data received from smartphone accelerometer and distinguish actual shaking of earth from everyday activities, even the accidental dropping of your smartphone. In this case, the average success rate of the app is 95%.