Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 174, Issue 6, pp 2331–2349 | Cite as

Real-Time Earthquake Intensity Estimation Using Streaming Data Analysis of Social and Physical Sensors

  • Yelena Kropivnitskaya
  • Kristy F. Tiampo
  • Jinhui Qin
  • Michael A. Bauer


Earthquake intensity is one of the key components of the decision-making process for disaster response and emergency services. Accurate and rapid intensity calculations can help to reduce total loss and the number of casualties after an earthquake. Modern intensity assessment procedures handle a variety of information sources, which can be divided into two main categories. The first type of data is that derived from physical sensors, such as seismographs and accelerometers, while the second type consists of data obtained from social sensors, such as witness observations of the consequences of the earthquake itself. Estimation approaches using additional data sources or that combine sources from both data types tend to increase intensity uncertainty due to human factors and inadequate procedures for temporal and spatial estimation, resulting in precision errors in both time and space. Here we present a processing approach for the real-time analysis of streams of data from both source types. The physical sensor data is acquired from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seismic network in California and the social sensor data is based on Twitter user observations. First, empirical relationships between tweet rate and observed Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) are developed using data from the M6.0 South Napa, CAF earthquake that occurred on August 24, 2014. Second, the streams of both data types are analyzed together in simulated real-time to produce one intensity map. The second implementation is based on IBM InfoSphere Streams, a cloud platform for real-time analytics of big data. To handle large processing workloads for data from various sources, it is deployed and run on a cloud-based cluster of virtual machines. We compare the quality and evolution of intensity maps from different data sources over 10-min time intervals immediately following the earthquake. Results from the joint analysis shows that it provides more complete coverage, with better accuracy and higher resolution over a larger area than either data source alone.


Stream computing high performance computing parallel computing physical sensors social sensors hazard estimators 



The research of KFT and YK was made possible by a MITACS Accelerate grant and an NSERC Discovery Grant and is the result of collaboration between the Western University Computational Laboratory for Fault System Modeling, Analysis, and Data Assimilation and the consortium of Canadian academic institutions, a high performance computing network SHARCNET. Figures were created using GMT plotting software (Smith and Wessel 1990).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yelena Kropivnitskaya
    • 1
  • Kristy F. Tiampo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jinhui Qin
    • 3
  • Michael A. Bauer
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesWestern UniversityLondonCanada
  2. 2.CIRESUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA
  3. 3.SHARCNETWestern UniversityLondonCanada
  4. 4.Department of Computer ScienceWestern UniversityLondonCanada

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