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Social Media, Citizen Seismology and Reducing Earthquake Risk

Social Media, Citizen Seismology and Reducing Earthquake Risk

The project was led by EMSC (European Mediterranean Seismological Center), a non-profit organization constituting one of the world’s main centers of seismological information. The project built on an existing working prototype developed by scientists over the last twenty years, one of the top two global prototypes in this field.

Duration of the project: 2020-2023


The three-year agreement signed between the SCOR Foundation for Science and the EMSC had the objective of completely renewing EMSC’s technical infrastructure and extending citizen seismology in order to improve the rapid assessment of the effects of earthquakes. The first two reports described in detail the technical developments that have occurred. For this last report, while still outlining the latest technical developments, the impetus is to illustrate how eyewitness data can replace dense real-time seismic networks for rapid impact assessment, using examples from the catastrophic M7.8 Kahramanmaraş, Turkey earthquake of 6 February 2023.

The technical refactoring of the processing system and communication tools has been finalized. After a new website for mobile devices and a new Twitter bot, the new smartphone app is available. The new desktop website has been online since the end of June 2023. The deployment of the new version of the app will be gradual, starting in September 2023.  

The catastrophic M7.8 Kahramanmaraş earthquake in Turkey last February was a dramatic reminder of the destructive power of earthquakes and the difficulty of rapidly assessing their impact. The LastQuake system proved its value in a number of ways. More than 5,000 felt reports were collected in the first 30 minutes, providing a unique insight into the impact. The existence of collapsed structures was confirmed by crowdsourced geo-located imagery collected in the first few hours, despite the earthquake occurring at night. Felt reports were also used to determine the geometry of the seismic rupture within 10 minutes, dramatically improving estimates of the spatial distribution of shaking and damage. A new detector harvesting images from Twitter was also able to detect a triggered landslide blocking a road 12 hours after the earthquake.

Independently of this specific case, the felt reports are shown to be able to distinguish high-impact from low-impact earthquakes within 10 minutes thanks to a statistical analysis, especially for earthquakes of moderate magnitude and moderate damage levels, which are inherently complex to identify through impact modelling. Finally, the report mentions the recent development of an information and crowdsourcing bot on the messaging app Telegram to further extend the reach of the LastQuake system. 

Taken together, these results demonstrate the ability of direct and indirect eyewitness observations to provide the necessary constraints for rapid and reliable impact assessment of global earthquakes.

Read the final report

On October 5, 2023, Rémy Bossu, Secretary General of the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC), came to SCOR’s headquarters in Paris to present the EMSC’s LastQuake application.  LastQuake, which the SCOR Foundation has been supporting since 2020,  has the powerful advantage of providing information on the occurrence of earthquakes instantaneously, whatever their location in the world. It gives a profile of the incident, based on individual information collected from people who connect to the application and who are asked to specify both their geographical position and the felt intensity of the earthquake.    

Rémy Bossu illustrated the effectiveness of this application using concrete examples of recent earthquakes. 

Read the presentation

In the following presentation, Rémy Bossu (EMSC) presents the progresses realized in the first 2 years of the project “Citizen seismology and its contribution to seismic risk reduction” supported by the SCOR Foundation for Science. The presentation is divided in 3 parts. It first presents the main ideas behind the concept of citizen seismology and how it can contribute to risk reduction through improved rapid impact assessment to public awareness and preparedness. Then follows the progresses realized over the last 2 years before going in more details about the technical work carried out and the plan for the last year of the project.




2nd Activity Report of the EMSC, April 2022

Social media is leveraged in research conducted by the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre’s Dr. Rémy Bossu, in Bruyères le Châtel, France

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Utilization of Crowdsourced Felt Reports to Distinguish High-Impact from Low-Impact Earthquakes Globally within Minutes of an Event

This article provides a detailed description and discussion of the project's innovative philosophy as well as its implementation. The article explores how we might make use of crowdsourced “felt reports” to distinguish high-impact from low-impact earthquakes within minutes of an event that occurs anywhere in the world. This could  allow for innovation and optimisation of  crisis management, which is key to limiting and controlling the extent of disasters’ claims.

Read the Article


How was the LastQuake rapid earthquake information and crowdsourcing system used in the immediate aftermath of the 6 February 2023 M7.8 earthquake in Turkey?

When the M7.8 earthquake struck Turkey on February 6, people who felt the tremor immediately turned to the LastQuake websites (website visits) and the application (app launches) to get preliminary information and share their experiences (felt reports). LastQuake automatically detected this influx of activity within 70 seconds of the earthquake, even before seismic data was available (crowdsourced detection, green hexagon). After less than 5 minutes, a notification was sent to all LastQuake app users which generated a new influx of visits to the LastQuake system.

The response was particularly large and fast from countries where LastQuake was already popular at the time of the quake (e.g. Cyprus). Within 30 minutes of the earthquake, more than 5,000 felt reports describing the level of shaking and damage were collected, providing a first indication of the impact of the earthquake.


EMSC recording of the M6.8 earthquake in Moroco