Caltech scientists working to predict mudslides

PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- Caltech scientists hope that data from the deadly Montecito mudslides can help them learn how to predict such disasters in the future, potentially saving lives with an early warning system.

They say seismometer readings recorded near the slide could have offered some residents five to 10 minutes of warning time

When the mud and debris began flowing and flooding Montecito homes and streets, a seismometer at the coast picked up the ground motion like it would an earthquake.

RELATED: Caltech scientists working on early detection warning system after Montecito mudslide

Caltech's Seismological Laboratory receives continual updates from Southern California's seismic network, including everything from large earthquakes to cars driving along the streets.

"We can measure velocities of only a micron per second, so very, very small velocities," Caltech geophysics professor Victor Tsai said.

Tsai studied data gathered from the Montecito mudslide, but he warns that there are still challenges to analyzing the seismological science.

"We need to understand how the amplitude of the signal we receive is related to the damage that the debris flow will actually cause," he said.
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