Now, tweets being used to get public reaction to quakes

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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)

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