When the Tohoku earthquake struck Japan in March of last year, seismometer data allowed authorities to issue earthquake earnings within eight seconds of first realizing something was seismologically amiss. But their initial readings were not fully accurate, labeling the 'quake a magnitude 7.1. It took authorities another 20 minutes to revise the magnitude to its real value of 9. Just ten minutes later, the tsunami hit.
Researchers at NASA and a group of universities think they can issue more accurate readings faster using global positioning data, thus allowing officials to more accurately assess risks and issue better-informed warnings up to ten times faster.