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ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System Performance During the 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquake Sequence

July 20, 2020

During July 2019, a sequence of earthquakes including a Mw6.4 foreshock and a Mw7.1 mainshock occurred near Ridgecrest, California. ShakeAlert, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) ShakeAlert public Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system being developed for the U.S. West Coast, was operational during this time, though public alerting was only available within LA County. ShakeAlert created alert messages for many of the earthquakes, including the two largest events, and for many of the larger aftershocks. In this study, we dissect log files and replay data through the system to reconstruct the sequence of events and analyze the performance of the system during that time period. While the system performed reasonably well overall, the sequence also revealed various issues and short comings that will be addressed in impending and future system upgrades, with most parts of the system working as they should. ShakeAlert correctly detected and rapidly characterized both the Mw6.4 and Mw7.1 earthquakes within 6.9 s of their origin times and created alert messages that were available to ShakeAlert’s pilot users. No public alerts were sent out by the ShakeAlertLA cellphone app (the only publicly available alerting method at the time) because the predicted shaking for LA County was below the app’s alerting threshold of MMI 4.0. For the Mw6.4 event this was accurate. For the Mw7.1 event, public alerts for LA County were warranted, but ShakeAlert underpredicted the shaking levels because both the point-source and the finite-fault algorithms underestimated the magnitude of the earthquake by 0.8 units. A number of software and hardware issues that were responsible for the magnitude underestimation of the mainshock have been identified and will be addressed in future ShakeAlert releases. We also analyze the hypothetical alerting performance of ShakeAlert had public alerting been available throughout southern California with a lower alerting threshold of 〖MMI〗_alert=2.5MMI 2.5. We find that, despite the magnitude underestimation, ShakeAlert could have provided timely warnings to a large fraction of affected sites, including some of the near-epicentral sites with high ground motion intensities.

Publication Year 2020
Title ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System Performance During the 2019 Ridgecrest Earthquake Sequence
DOI 10.1785/0120200032
Authors Angela Chung, Men-Andrin Meier, Jennifer Andrews, Maren Böse, Brendan Crowell, Jeffrey McGuire, Deborah Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
Index ID 70213093
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Science Center