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Scientists find telling early moment that indicates a coming megaquake

Credit: University of Oregon Scientists combing through databases of earthquakes since the early 1990s have discovered a possible defining moment 10-15 seconds into an event that could signal a magnitude 7 or larger megaquake. Likewise, that moment—gleaned from GPS data on the peak rate of acceleration of ground displacement—can indicate a smaller event. Such GPS-based information potentially could enhance the value of earthquake early warning systems, such as the West Coast’s ShakeAlert, said Diego Melgar, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oregon. Having these capabilities on the seafloor and monitoring data in real time, he said, could strengthen the accuracy of early warning systems. Melgar and Hayes came across the slip-pulse timing while scouring USGS databases for components that they could code into simulations to forecast what a magnitude 9 rupture of the Cascadia subduction zone would look like.

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