If scientists could issue earthquake warnings 10 seconds to 30 seconds before the shockwaves of the earthquake spread, the human life and property losses in the disaster area should be effectively reduced. NTU Department of Geosciences Professor Dr. Yih-min Wu utilized the primary waves of an earthquake to conduct earthquake early warning systems research. His research findings have received international attention. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii adopted Dr. Wus programs last year to conduct early warning and monitoring of earthquakes..
Professor Wus research findings have been published in succession in internationally renowned journals such as "Geophysical Research Letters." In addition to attracting attention from the seismological society of the United States, the Korea Meteorological Administration invited him to give a lecture at the end of last year (see Figure 1); whereas the Kyoto University of Japan decided to use Dr. Wus concept to develop an earthquake early warning system.
Dr. Wu is currently developing a portable hand held earthquake warning device which takes advantage of modern day MEMS technology. When a disastrous earthquake takes place, people who live in the disaster area are able to receive warnings from the Central Weather Bureau, and take contingency measures on a real time basis right on the spot.
Professor Wu points out that, Taiwan is situated at the Circum-Pacific seismic belt wherein seismic activities abound, and disastrous earthquakes occur quite often. Instances such as the 1906 earthquake in Meishan, Chiayi, the 1935 strong earthquake in Hsinchu and Taichung, and the 1999 giant earthquake in Chichi all left indelible memories in peoples minds. Therefore, early detection of earthquake happenings is an area of research that must be continually strengthened.
Earthquake prediction has always been a hot topic in disaster prevention. Although many precursory phenomena have been confirmed (1), so far they have not been proven to be practical. As the level of applicability of earthquake prediction remains low, many countries in the world divert their resources to the development of earthquake early warning systems (2). Rapid earthquake information not only serves as important indicators for disaster relief measures, but also meets the expectations of the general public and the media. Information provided by earthquake early warning systems can be the key to the emergency contingency measures taken on the part of major construction projects and civilian facilities.
Earthquake early warning refers to warnings issued about several seconds or tens of seconds before the disastrous shock waves strike. This short period of time is critical in directly reducing the harms inflicted by the earthquake. The scope of applications can be as follows:
- Schoolchildren can hide under their desks to seek protection and psychological adjustment. Research results of Mexico Citys early warning system have shown that schoolchildren who received warning messages in advance greatly reduced their fears of earthquakes.
- Workers are given enough time to leave their dangerous work sites.
- The ongoing surgeries in a hospital can be stopped temporarily or make minute and sophisticated adjustments in their operation. For instance, eye surgeries.
- Transportation systems can be stopped automatically or reduce their running speed. For instance: high speed railways can reduce their running speed to lower the danger of derailment.
- Life-supporting pipelines and communication networks can be automatically adjusted, reorganized or shutdown. For instance: gas pipes and water hoses can be turned off to reduce the chances of fire caused by earthquake or other disasters.
- Factories can activate emergency response measures to protect vibration sensitive equipments. For instance: wafer manufacturing plants.