Research published in Nature shows theoretical feasibility of quake forecasting
Earthquakes along a set of fault lines in the Pacific Ocean emit small "foreshocks" that can be used to forecast the main tremor, according to research in the March 24 issue of Nature. It is the first demonstration that some types of large imminent earthquakes may be systematically predictable on time scales of hours or less. Statistically reliable forecasting of imminent quakes has been an elusive goal for seismologists. Co-author Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, stresses that quakes on land generally do not show many foreshocks and cannot be predicted with the methods outlined in the Nature paper.
The research team, led by Jeffrey McGuire of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, studied past earthquakes along two so-called transform faults on the East Pacific Rise, where tectonic plates are spreading apart. Sensor data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pinpointed the time and location of foreshocks and earthquakes. For the purposes of the study, the researchers defined a foreshock as any tremor of at least 2.5 magnitude on the Richter scale. Earthquakes were tremors of no less than 5.4 magnitude. The researchers then declared a hypothetical "alarm" for an hour within a 15-kilometer radius of the epicenter of every foreshock.
Carl Marziali | EurekAlert!
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