If you sent out a Twitter or email message after Tuesday's Southern California earthquake, you had a lot of company. As is typical in technology-heavy California, the moderate earthquake generated a following seismic wave of Internet messages of people checking in with each other.
In fact, one study indicates that tracking Internet earthquake reports is nearly as accurate as seismographs in detecting earthquakes.
Scientists at the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre's (EMSC) have tested using software to map visitors to its site after an earthquake by their IP addresses. The technique accurately located an earthquake in February 2007 near the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean within 15 minutes, according to an article in New Scientist.
The technique could help record small quakes that are nonetheless worrying for residents, scientists said.
Earthquakes that are particularly severe could also be tracked via the software, by noting areas with no Internet reports -- due to, presumably, losing Internet access from the quake.
Currently, reports are on the order of within 10km (6 miles) accuracy, and the organization hopes to improve that this year, the 2007 report said.
Meanwhile, ubiquitous Internet access meant many images of the quake itself quickly became available, as well as Twitter reports that came in even before official stories -- including one woman who reportedly was in the stirrups in the gynecologist's office. Using services such as Twitter to make reports also takes a load off the cellular telephone system, providers said.