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Washington: Scientists have formulated a new algorithm to identify minor earthquakes which previously remained unknown the large ground motion measurement databases.

Even though microquakes are not life-threatening and don’t affect buildings or property much, their observation could help scientists better identify where bigger earthquakes could strike.


The algorithm, which is inspired by a popular song matching app called ‘Shazam’, is called Fingerprint and Similarity Thresholding, or FAST. Smaller quakes, which are not detected using conventional methods, and don’t even register as earthquakes, can be detected through this technology.

Waveform similarity was used extensively in seismology in the past decade through a process called template matching. This technique matches the seismic wave pattern of an earthquake to past recorded wave signatures in the database, explained Greg Beroza from Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

However, to utilize this process, scientists need to know what signal they are looking for beforehand. The technique is also a time-consuming one.

Places such as Oklahoma and Arkansas could greatly benefit from this technology, as they have seen a rise in the number of minor quakes, which have been linked to hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. FAST could help properly identify risk areas.

The FAST technology needs to be tested over long time periods with a number of seismic stations to effectively predict when and where bigger quakes would strike.


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