Now you can just type in the words “earthquakes San Francisco” (for example) if you want to see a list of recent earthquakes near (you guessed it) San Francisco. You can also do a general search for “earthquakes” if you just want to know which parts of the world are shaking. The feature also lets you click to see the earthquake epicenter on Google Maps.
On one level, this is a bit underwhelming, since Google isn’t providing any new information or even aggregating a particularly rich set of data — all of the earthquake information comes from the US Geological Survey’s Earthquake Center website. But this makes the information searchable so users don’t have to navigate the USGS’ lists and maps. It also lets you use Google’s tools to find out more — for example, you can Google the local time when the earthquake occurred. Perhaps most importantly, it’s yet another question you can answer without ever leaving Google.
My only real complaint is the fact that the earthquake listings just kind of sit there. Sure, you can map them, but how about a link to the full earthquake profile on the USGS site? Or to relevant stories in Google News?
In his blog post, Google Software Engineer Mike Danylchuk writes, “Traditionally, we’ve had to wait for answers as reporters scrambled to investigate and spread the news.” As someone who’s covered some small earthquakes for the local paper, I like this tool, but it only helps with what was already the easiest part of the job — namely, contacting the USGS (or visiting its website) and confirming that there was an earthquake. A cub reporter still has to tackle the tough task of tracking down some locals and asking, “Did you feel it? Did you feel it?”