Scientists are employing the use of GPS technology and other sensors in order to develop a better early warning system for earthquakes, tsunamis and floods.

The minutes before a natural disaster strikes are crucial and so an early warning system would provide emergency services the opportunity to prepare and respond more effectively in such situations.

Japan Earthquake aftermath

The system, which is built on existing networks of GPS stations, has seismic sensors and other instruments installed in order to track any changes in weather conditions. A protype is being tested by scientists in California.

Team member Dr Bock from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography explains: “By combining the data from the GPS with the data from these other sensors, we can measure displacements that occur during an earthquake or another event.”

He went on to say that the system can detect tremors that occur before a large earthquake and accurately assess the magnitude.

“It might be surprising that we are using GPS to monitor weather hazards, but GPS is a weather instrument,” said Dr Angelyn Moore, from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Whenever we measure the position of a GPS station, we are also measuring the amount of water vapour above it.”

This warning system could prove vital in helping to alert the public quicker and therefore help save lives.

Dr Bock feels “This can help to mitigate threats to public safety. It means real-time information can be made available.”

[Image via Gbooza]