World’s largest earthquake early warning system announced in China


China’s Earthquake Early Warning System (EEWS), the largest of its kind globally, has been completed, according to an announcement by Min Yiren, the head of the China Earthquake Administration (CEA), on June 8, 2023. The system is anticipated to be fully functional by the end of the year, covering more than 15 000 monitoring stations, three national centers, 31 provincial centers, and 173 prefectural and municipal information release centers.

Contrary to predicting earthquakes, the EEWS detects initial ground motions, signaling the onset of seismic activity, and immediately relays this data to processing centers. Utilizing advanced algorithms, the system determines the earthquake’s location and magnitude, enabling rapid distribution of alerts across cities and towns. This early warning, ranging from a few seconds to a minute, can significantly impact survival rates during earthquakes.

Wang Tun, the head of a key earthquake early warning laboratory in Sichuan Province, shared with Global Times, “With an early warning of several seconds to 60 seconds, the death toll in an earthquake can be reduced by 30%.”

China has been developing an earthquake early warning system since the 1990s and started constructing its earthquake early warning and instant seismic intensity reporting system in high-risk regions in 2018. The Northwestern Seismological Journal published research in 2002 showing that a three-second warning could reduce casualties by 14%, while a 10-second warning could reduce casualties by 39% and a 20-second warning could reduce casualties by 63%.

According to Yiren, the newly completed system significantly shortens earthquake information delivery time, from a minute to mere seconds post-earthquake initiation. Alerts can be dispatched through various devices, including TVs, mobile phones, and other warning terminals.

Some quake-prone areas such as southwest China’s Sichuan and Yunan provinces, north China’s Beijing and Tianjin municipalities, Hebei Province, and east China’s Fujian Province have already begun trial operations for public early warning services. Yiren emphasized that the system has tackled several technical challenges, including multi-network integration and the ability to release information to a massive user base within one second.

Featured image credit: The Watchers (stock)


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