A sensitive twitter earthquake detector

TitleA sensitive twitter earthquake detector
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsRobinson B, Power R, Cameron M
Conference NameProceedings of the 22nd international conference on World Wide Web companion
PublisherInternational World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee

This paper describes early work at developing an earthquake detector for Australia and New Zealand using Twitter. The system is based on the Emergency Situation Awareness (ESA) platform which provides all-hazard information captured, filtered and analysed from Twitter. The detector sends email notifications of evidence of earthquakes from Tweets to the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre.

The earthquake detector uses the ESA platform to monitor Tweets and checks for specific earthquake related alerts. The Tweets that contribute to an alert are then examined to determine their locations: when the Tweets are identified as being geographically close and the retweet percentage is low an email notification is generated.

The earthquake detector has been in operation since December 2012 with 31 notifications generated where 17 corresponded with real, although minor, earthquake events. The remaining 14 were a result of discussions about earthquakes but not prompted by an event. A simple modification to our algorithm results in 20 notifications identifying the same 17 real events and reducing the false positives to 3. Our detector is sensitive in that it can generate alerts from only a few Tweets when they are determined to be geographically close.