Washington, Dec.16 (ANI): Tweets are being used by the US Geological Survey (USGS) to get instant public reaction to earthquakes.
The agency is trawling the messages to find out what people felt during a tremor - whether there was a lot of shaking in their area or not.
There are big spikes in Twitter traffic immediately following a quake and the USGS believes emergency responders might find the information useful.
It could help them assess very quickly the severity of a particular event.
However, the survey stressed that the social networking tool would only ever supplement the existing scientific reporting systems which determine shake effects.
"It is a speed versus accuracy issue," explained Dr Paul Earle.
"Twitter messages start coming out in the seconds after an earthquake whereas, depending of the region, scientifically derived information can take 2-20 minutes," he told BBC News.
The USGS continuously collects, geo-codes (where the information is supplied, perhaps by a GPS enabled device) and stores the tweets.
When the national seismic network detects a quake, the new system then checks back to see if there was a significant increase in messages following the event.
If there was, it can send interested scientists emails that summarise where the tweets were coming from and the text from a sample of them.
The USGS development team concedes there can be a lot "noise" in the data stream.
A paper describing the project will be published soon in Seismological Research Letters. (ANI)