We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Become a Human Seismograph

Crowdsourcing gives geologists valuable new data.

By Leeaundra Keany
Jan 8, 2011 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 4:14 AM
Courtesy: US Geological Survey | NULL


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

If you feel the earth move, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) wants to hear about it. At the agency’s "Did You Feel It?" website, anyone can contribute data on earthquakes by answering simple questions such as “Did it wake you up?” and "Did items fall off shelves?" Using your local reporting, site creator and USGS geophysicist David Wald says, researchers can build in a matter of minutes a zip code–based seismic-intensity map that used to take up to a year to generate.

Since its global launch in 2005, the online reporting system has helped to fill gaps in seismic monitoring outside well-studied sites like California, documenting microquakes that often escape detection. In some instances, such as the earthquake that shook Maryland this past July, the maps have helped scientists correct their assessments of an earthquake’s magnitude and epicenter. "Anyone who witnesses an earthquake can be just as accurate as an expert—maybe even more so—when it comes to reporting it," Wald says. In addition to improving the scientific record, the USGS says the crowd-sourced data can also help emergency responders focus quickly on the hardest-hit areas to provide a rapid response.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.