Earthquake News

Could an earthquake emoji save lives? A common sign for earthquakes is sought by experts.

With the tragic explosion of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala and Kilauea's ongoing rampage on Hawaii's Big Island, the emoji for volcanic eruptions has received a lot of attention on Twitter and other social media in recent months. Emojis are a quick way to convey the essence of tornadoes, cyclones, and tsunamis, among other natural disasters.

However, there has never been a common representation of the natural catastrophe—earthquakes—that poses a threat to a third of the world's population.

With the help of an open competition for an earth-shattering sign that cuts across language and culture, a small group of experts—including two from Washington state—are trying to close that gap.

Sara McBride of the U.S. said, "We need an emoji so we can connect swiftly with far wider numbers of people. Environmental Survey (USGS). People process images more quickly than words, yet not everyone speaks English well.

McBride, a native of the Tri-Cities region of Washington and a graduate of Central Washington University, is assisting the USGS with the development of the ShakeAlert earthquake early-warning system. She said that emojis might be really helpful in creating succinct, simple signals that are sent out minutes or seconds before powerful ground shaking starts.

Scientists are already using social media to nearly immediately pinpoint earthquakes around the world as people use Twitter to report shaking, damage, and fatalities. According to Stephen Hicks, a postdoctoral researcher in seismology at the UK's University of Southampton and the project's chief organizer, an emoji might help people communicate more quickly and across language boundaries.

"The sooner we learn that an earthquake has occurred, the better we can assess its potential repercussions and dispatch assistance in an emergency," he said.

According to Hicks, the project is enjoyable for the young researchers who put it together a few weeks ago. He acknowledged that the concept probably raised the eyes of some of their more senior coworkers. On Twitter, where a vibrant community of earthquake experts and enthusiasts follow one another and obsessively study significant temblors, many of the earliest talks took place.

According to McBride, the competition wants to draw ideas from artists and visual designers as well as scientists. An efficient emoji must be legible at extremely small sizes, easily identifiable across cultures, and accommodating to colorblind users.

She replied, "You can't just put up an emoji and call it day." There is much to think about.

Some of the more than 40 submissions to date depict the Earth breaking like an egg. Others stress the human condition by rattling homes or people. One or more of them include a seismograph trace. Four or five finalists will remain once the steering committee narrows the field. Through Twitter, the public will vote to choose the winner.

However, creating a new emoji alone won't guarantee its acceptance.

The Unicode Consortium, a global organization that certifies and standardizes the variety of icons on smartphones, desktops, and social media platforms all across the world, is responsible for it.

The steering group will collaborate with the designer to apply for Unicode approval, which calls for a written reason and an application.

As a member of the #emojiquake steering team and a Columbia University PhD candidate in anthropology, Elizabeth Angell, a native of the Seattle area, said, "Anybody can do it, if you have an idea and you have a compelling argument you can make for it."

Duck-and-cover drills were a regular part of Angell's schooldays growing up; she graduated from the University of Washington. She recalls hearing tales from her grandparents about the Olympia earthquake in 1949, and at the age of 19, she experienced the 2001 Nisqually earthquake personally as it shook her rental home in the U-District.

Her decision to focus on the social, cultural, and political elements of earthquake disasters was influenced by those experiences.

She's interested to see how an earthquake emoji performs and develops online.

She noted that the "blue wave" emoji, which is typically used to represent tsunamis, has taken on a new meaning as a metaphor for a potential wave of Democratic victories in the upcoming midterm elections.

We can't possibly foresee all the uses for this earthquake emoji, in my opinion.

The entry deadline is July 14. The #emojiquake website provides clear guidelines and procedures.

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