Seismologists at the US Geological Survey (USGS) have turned to social media site Twitter to help detect earthquakes.
The Register reports the Tweet Earthquake Dispatch (TED) system monitors Twitter for earthquake-related tweets in various languages, noting the number of tweets per minute originating from users in a given geographic area, also giving a preliminary indication of how widespread an earthquake is.
Last week, the system began collating tweets from an earthquake in the Philippines around one minute and seven seconds after the event – sooner than USGS seismographs began raising alerts.
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The 7.6 magnitude quake struck under the ocean 146 kilometres off Samar Island, resulting in one death and only minor damage.
Early earthquake warnings are particularly important near undersea fault lines, where a potential tsunami risk exists.