Seismic software encompasses a variety of computer programs that can be used to interpret geological data gathered from around the world. Many of these programs are able to create a visual representation of data, often three-dimension (3D) images, from seismic instruments. By using such a software program, researchers can map where an earthquake occurred, track fault lines, measure how deep a quake was, and determine patterns of quakes to analyze the risk to certain areas.
There are a large number of seismic software products available online, and many can be downloaded at no cost. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) offers an array of programs to download which are used to interpret different types of seismic data. One program provides a 3D view of the focal points of each earthquake and includes data on the depth and magnitude of quakes. Another analyzes clusters of earthquakes to separate aftershocks from larger earthquakes in a dataset.
More sophisticated programs perform additional functions. They can calculate and predict the effects of earthquakes based on analyses of the stresses caused by seismic activity. It is possible for a program like this to analyze the stress of fault movements or compression of magma chambers that can occur with ground motion. The applications of software with this capability range from research to higher education.
Some programs simply relay information about earthquakes as they happen. This class of software includes basic web applications available on websites devoted to providing anyone with immediate details on quakes anywhere in the world. Collecting data from various sites is important to many businesses, news agencies, and governments, and some software is extremely efficient at this task.
Seismic software is also beneficial for seismic hazard calculation, in which hazard maps can be created for seismically active areas. This makes it possible for engineers to plan construction accordingly. Faults can be mapped so builders know what areas to avoid and what materials are best to use. It is also possible to remove seismic data, such as that from intentional quarry blasts. Several seismic software programs are also available in an open source format, so they undergo continuous development by anyone with expertise in computer programming.
Open source and other programs are available for many common operating systems. Seismic software is available to nearly all computer users. Novice users and experts alike can take advantage of these programs to keep up-to-date on the latest earthquakes.