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More awards for the GeoNet Project

More awards for the GeoNet Project

The awards keep coming for the GeoNet website in recognition for the rapid information it provides on earthquakes and volcanic activity.

The GeoNet team at GNS Science recently collected two trophies from the 2012 New Zealand Open Source Software Awards. They were for use of open source software in government - for GeoNet Rapid, and use of open source software in science - for GeoNet's Open Data policy.

The GeoNet Project, which started in 2001, is a collaboration between GNS Science and the Earthquake Commission with EQC providing about $9 million-a-year to cover the project’s operating costs. Land Information New Zealand joined the collaboration soon after it started, providing support for parts of its instrument networks.

The GeoNet instrument network records about 20,000 earthquakes in New Zealand each year. It also monitors the North Island's active volcanoes, including White Island in the Bay of Plenty and Raoul Island 1000km northeast of Auckland.

GeoNet Rapid went live earlier this year after years of planning and development. It cuts the waiting time for information about an earthquake from about 15 minutes to about three minutes.

GeoNet Project Director Ken Gledhill said GeoNet Rapid was the culmination of setting up a real-time seismograph network around New Zealand. The project operates more than 600 instruments nationwide, with most transmitting real-time data by radio and satellite.

As well as several types of seismic instruments, the network includes GPS instruments for measuring surface deformation due to tectonic movement, acoustic instruments on volcanoes to pick up explosive volcanism, webcams to keep an eye on volcanoes, and a network of instruments around the coast to detect tsunamis.

“Technically the network is a towering achievement and it puts New Zealand at the international forefront of capturing and delivering earthquake and volcano information to many end-users including the media and the public,” Dr Gledhill said.

“We’ve had to be creative to stay ahead of the ever-growing demand for information about earthquakes and volcanoes. To do this, we have made the information available across a range of platforms including texts and email alerts. More recently we have developed smart phone apps that enable users to customise the information they receive.”

GeoNet’s Open Data policy has meant that all the data it has collected since 2001 has been freely available to everyone.

This free access has been immensely valuable, especially during the Christchurch earthquakes.

“It has assisted with changes to the building code and enabled people to display our data in new and innovative ways on their own websites. In addition, many overseas scientists have been using the data in their research and in the long-run New Zealand will benefit from their findings.”

Dr Gledhill said the awards were a tribute to the vision of those who founded the project in 2001.

“In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the Earthquake Commission for its role in setting up the Open Data policy which has proved to be invaluable for New Zealand research into our geohazards.”

In October GeoNet won the ‘information category’ of the Australia and New Zealand Internet Awards. The awards are an annual event celebrating the achievements of those who have made significant contributions to the development and use of Internet in New Zealand and Australia.

The information category is for initiatives that bring information, knowledge and materials online. The judges described the development of GeoNet Rapid as of critical public importance in New Zealand. "The projects makes earthquake information rapidly available - within five minutes - through the web and is being used extensively by third party applications including smart phone apps," the judges said.

"The importance of the initiative to scientists, geologists, communities and at a personal level is very significant. It has helped citizens engage with and understand what the earthquake data is telling us."


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