View Full Version : Why can't we predict earthquakes?
We know where the tectonic plates and major fault lines are, right? And we obviously have sensors so that after an earthquake happens, we can tell the survivors, "Yep, that was an 8.5. Quite a shake-up, huh, folks?"
Isn't there any way to feel build-up or pre-tremors or anything so we can tell people "Run for the hills!" or "Run away from the hills!"
01-11-2005, 06:57 PM
Well, we can predict earthquakes, but not usually on a time scale that will do anyone any good. We know certain sections of the San Andreas fault are way overdue to slip, but we can't tell exactly when it's going to happen. Plate movements happen on a scale of decades and centuries, so that trying to refine a prediction down to a scale of a day and hour is virtually impossible.
01-11-2005, 07:01 PM
We can detect that the likelyhood of earthquakes is high or low, or getting higher or getting lower, if we have thrown enough hardware at the problem. Witness the somewhat-recent noises about Mt. St. Helens. But how much money has been spent on the monitoring equipment and the monitoring staff?
Regarless of the technology, though, the certainty that something will occur is inversely proportional to the amount of time that you can do anything about it.
Earthquake's comin'. You heard it here first.
01-11-2005, 07:22 PM
Isn't there any way to feel build-up or pre-tremors or anything
Basically, the answer is no, at least as far as anyone knows. From here (http://scec.ess.ucla.edu/%7Eykagan/perspective.html)
Whether any particular small earthquake grows into a large earthquake depends on a myriad of fine details of physical conditions throughout a large volume, not just in the immediate vicinity of the fault. This highly sensitive nonlinear dependence of earthquake rupture on unknown initial conditions severely limits predictability.
Translated into normal speak, sometimes the ground rocks and rolls before the big one, sometimes not. Sometimes it rocks and rolls and nothing happens.
The USGS (http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/research/parkfield/index.html) has is running a long term experiment in California to try and understand the physics underlying earthquakes, but don't expect any giant breakthroughs for the next couple of decades.
01-11-2005, 07:49 PM
On the bright side, predicting the weather a hundred years ago was not nearly as good as today and 50 years ago giving advance warning of a tornado was just a dream.
Today, we are much better at it.
I feel confident that in the future quakes and volcanos will be predicted. At first maybe only with a few months but I'm positive that it will get better.
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