New Features to Real-time Earthquake Monitoring

Earthquake Shakemap in Google EarthWhile I was attending the AGU conference last month, I spent some time with Scott Haefner of the USGS who is responsible for the USGS real-time earthquake monitoring add-on for Google Earth found on their Earthquake Hazards web site. The earthquake monitoring tool is one of my favorite examples of the power of the real-time geospatial information capabilities of Google Earth. The tool automatically checks the USGS database every 5 minutes and lets you know if new seismic activity has occurred somewhere in the world. Each earthquake is colored by age, and sized according to magnitude. It also shows the plate tectonic boundaries. For larger quakes, if you click on the placemark, you may get a link for a “shakemap” overlay. The shakemap is an image overlay showing the shaking intensity map for that earthquake.
Scott has added a cool time animation to the add-on (in part due to ideas we discussed). You can find the animation when you click on any of the earthquake placemarks. At the bottom of the description bubble you will see links like this:

The first shows you a time animation of the seismic activity from Magnitude 1.0+ for the last seven days. Drag the slider to watch the earthquakes occur in sequence. The second link shows you historic earthquakes since 1970 from Magnitude 3.0 and up. Warning, this is a big file and may take a while to load. But, it definitely gives you a perspective on where the earthquakes occur.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. I just heard about this very interesting item on the main (Irish) RTE News at 9PM. I tracked down the story on the GE community. Maybe you could do an article on it now or when its uploaded, and perhaps you could verify the claims below about it being a first, it looked brilliant on the news. The town is quite small and has a population of approximately five and half thousand.The article is below.
    The town of Westport in Co. Mayo is set to be featured as the most detailed 3D model available on the Google Earth digital mapping service.
    An interactive 3D model of the town, originally developed last April by local 3D imaging firm AM3TD, is now set to be integrated into Google’s digital globe. Google Earth Senior Associate Daniela Brica will visit the town on 16 January for a special event at the Knockranny House Hotel to mark the occasion.
    Speaking in advance of the event, Westport’s town manager Peter Hynes said: “This is another first for Westport — a first for Ireland and possibly the world. I’m very proud that our town is playing such a major role in international technology. This is literally putting Westport firmly on the global map.”
    The ‘Westport3D’ model was created using long-distance laser scanning technology and digital photography and is the first such model of an Irish town to be created. It was initially developed as an aid to town planning and was made available on the town council’s website and on CD-ROM.
    AM3TD’s director Dr. Brendan Hafferty commented: “The request by Google Earth to host Westport3D is the ‘icing on the cake’ and something that will without doubt have a tremendous impact with the millions of people who make virtual visits via Google Earth every day of the week.”
    Besides satisfying the idle curiosity of numerous Google Earth visitors from around the world, AM3TD says the technology has a number of practical applications, including the ability to ’embed’ advertising in the model and the possibility for civil engineers and planners to use it for assessing the impact of proposed new development on the existing environment.
    The 3D model of Westport will be viewable in Google Earth from the evening of 16 January.

  2. Gary E. Frank says:

    I can’t turn off the USGS realtime earthquake tool. I’ve unintstalled and reinstalled Google Earth several times and the problem is still there.

  3. Does anyone know how to turn this off? I’m having the same issue as Gary

  4. Done it! In your “places” frame (on the left) find the earthquakes bit and right-click and delete it!

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