Earthquakes and Twitter go way back. One of the first true signs of the service’s power was when an earthquake would happen somewhere in the world and people in those areas would jump on Twitter to talk about it in real time. So it makes sense that someone would set up an account simply to auto-tweet when quakes happen.
David Shamma has created the @sfusgs account to automatically tweet with USGS data when a new earthquake hits in the Bay Area. More interestingly, the tweets take advantage of Twitter’s new geolocation API, so if you’re using a third-party app that supports location, you can see the quakes on a map. Each tweet also includes the time of the quake, the depth at which it took place, how far it was from San Francisco, and a link back to the USGS site with more info.
As you’re probably aware, the San Francisco Bay Area is a pretty active place for earthquakes, so an account like this is useful. For example, the latest tweet was from just this morning, when a minor 2.5 magnitude quake hit the area following a larger one a couple days ago. Any quake over this 2.5 magnitude threshold gets tweeted out, according to Shamma.
There have been other accounts set up to do similar things in the past, for example, @sfquake, but that account has been dormant for over 2 years. Plus, that included none of the geolocation tweet data, which is useful.
And while the @sfusgs account may be taking data from the USGS and putting it in its own Twitter stream, the USGS itself is actually going the other way. The service noted yesterday that it would begin leveraging Twitter data to help with its reports. From their release:
In this exploratory effort, the USGS is developing a system that gathers real-time, earthquake-related messages from the social networking site Twitter and applies place, time, and key word filtering to gather geo-located accounts of shaking. This approach provides rapid first-impression narratives and, potentially, photos from people at the hazard’s location. The potential for earthquake detection in populated but sparsely seismicly-instrumented regions is also being investigated.
Twitter and earthquakes; the love affair continues.