ABSTRACT

During July 2019, a sequence of earthquakes, including an Mw 6.4 foreshock and an Mw 7.1 mainshock, occurred near Ridgecrest, California. ShakeAlert, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) earthquake early warning system being developed for the U.S. West Coast, was operational during this time, although public alerting was only available within Los Angeles County. ShakeAlert created alert messages for the two largest events and for many of the larger aftershocks. In this study, we dissect log files and replay data through the system to reconstruct the sequence of events and analyze the performance of the system during that period. Although the system performed reasonably well overall, the sequence also revealed various issues and short comings that will be addressed in impending and future system upgrades. ShakeAlert detected and characterized both the Mw 6.4 and Mw 7.1 earthquakes within 6.9 s of their origin times and created alert messages that were available to ShakeAlert’s pilot users. No public alerts were sent out by the ShakeAlertLA cell phone app (the only publicly available alerting method at the time), because the predicted shaking for Los Angeles County was below the app’s alerting threshold of modified Mercalli intensity 4.0. For the Mw 6.4 event, this was accurate. For the Mw 7.1 event, public alerts for Los Angeles County were warranted, but ShakeAlert underpredicted the shaking levels, because both the point‐source and finite‐fault algorithms underestimated the magnitude of the earthquake by 0.8 units. A number of software and hardware issues that were responsible for the magnitude underestimation of the mainshock have been identified and will be addressed in future ShakeAlert releases. We also analyze the hypothetical alerting performance of ShakeAlert had public alerting been available throughout southern California.

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