20 July, 2006

Red-faced U.S. says revamping quake review process

Red-faced U.S. scientists are revising earthquake analysis procedures after an inexperienced overnight team failed to quickly review a major earthquake that caused a tsunami killing more than 550 in Indonesia, an official said on Wednesday.

The United States Geological Survey typically provides very quick, accurate data on earthquakes worldwide, but on Monday took six hours before they gave the accurate 7.7 magnitude for the quake that hit 345 km (215 miles) south of Jakarta. "Things didn't work quite the way they were supposed to," said Stuart Sipkin, director of the USGS World Data Center for Seismology in Golden, Colorado. "It is not inaccurate to say we are a little red faced about it. We would have liked to have things work a little bit better."

Because of the remote location of the earthquake, it took 17 minutes for the center to receive enough data to send out an initial automated alert of a 7.2 magnitude event. A scientist is supposed to review the automated findings manually within 10 minutes, but in the early morning hours between Sunday and Monday in Colorado that did not take place for an hour. "The only people on staff were some fairly inexperienced analysts," Sipkin told Reuters. "They should have called one of the more experienced analysts."

It was only six hours later when others started arriving during regular business hours that geologists calculated the Indonesia quake was actually a 7.7 -- or three times larger in ground motion than a 7.2 and more than five times larger in terms of the amount of energy released.

Read the Full Article at ReliefWeb (Reuters)
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