UW Today

February 1, 2016

UW seismologist speaking at White House earthquake preparedness summit

News and Information

A University of Washington seismologist is participating in a White House summit Tuesday that will focus on national earthquake preparedness. The event will be webcast live from 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Pacific time.

Sally Jewell, secretary of the Department of the Interior, and John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, are scheduled to give the introductory remarks.

John Vidale, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences, is among the speakers for the first session of the day, which will focus on the promise of earthquake early warning. Later sessions will focus on building for earthquake safety, the evolution of early earthquake warning, and how the federal government is committed to ensuring a future with greater earthquake readiness.

Vidale directs the UW-based Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, which monitors earthquake and volcano activity across the region. The network is involved in efforts to help the region prepare for a possible magnitude-9 earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, off the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. Earthquake early warning systems could save many millions of dollars in damages by providing several seconds to minutes of warning before an oncoming earthquake, allowing enough time to protect lives, shut down industrial processes and halt transportation before the shaking begins.

The Pacific Northwest’s early warning system got initial funding in 2011 from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the system began prototype testing a year ago with Puget Sound agencies and businesses. The UW, the University of Oregon, University of California, Berkeley and Caltech were awarded $5 million in July by the U.S. Geological Survey to begin developing a full, reliable West Coast earthquake early warning system for the public. Vidale has estimated that such a system would cost roughly $38 million to build and $16 million per year to maintain and run.

Also representing the UW at Tuesday’s event are Paul Bodin, a research professor in Earth and space sciences who manages the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, and Bill Steele, who manages the network’s communication and outreach efforts.


For more information, contact Vidale at vidale@uw.edu or 310-210-2131.

Vidale will back in Seattle on Thursday. For an interview in the lab earlier in the week, contact research scientist Brendan Crowell at crowellb@uw.edu.