Ten years ago, a significant earthquake shook the state of Virginia. In Washington D.C., the White House, the Capitol, and various other buildings were evacuated. This event is a bit special for EMSC…
Can you guess why?
It was the first from North America to generate an automatically detected traffic surge on the EMSC-CSEM website.
The traffic surges observed immediately after felt earthquakes are caused by eyewitnesses who felt the ground shaking and rushed onto the Internet for earthquake information.
During the 2011 Virginia earthquake, the EMSC website visits were indeed triggered by the ground shaking: by considering the visitors as earthquake sensors, we were able to locate the epicenter with 30 km accuracy [*].
Careful though! The flash-sourcing approach does not replace any monitoring techniques or any macroseismic studies, but it does give insight on the public reaction to a significant earthquake.
[*] Bossu, R.; Lefebvre, S.; Cansi, Y.; Mazet-Roux, G. (2014). Characterization of the 2011 Mineral, Virginia, Earthquake Effects and Epicenter from Website Traffic Analysis. Seismological Research Letters, 85(1), 91–97. doi:10.1785/0220130106