Melbourne, a professor at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, works with specialized GPS systems called the Pacific Northwest Geodetic Array. The system includes 500 GPS tracking devices dug into the ground from Canada to near San Francisco. With these tracking devices, his team can tell if the earth’s crust is moving to an accuracy of about the width of a knitting needle.
Tim Melbourne: “This is a very big earthquake for Japan, but they get routinely hammered by earthquakes and it’s in their consciousness earthquakes kill. This is a carbon copy of what we can expect here on the West Coast, only we’re not nearly as well prepared.”
Each GPS tracking device that Melbourne uses costs about $40,000. The project is funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation and U.S. Geological Survey.