Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Media bias distorts details of past earthquakes

04.04.2007
The story of some violent historic earthquakes may need to be revisited, according to a study published in the April issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA).

Seismologists rely on written accounts, mostly local newspaper articles, to judge how strongly the ground shook during earthquakes that predate the use of current instrumentation. Those news accounts have proven to be misleading, say scientists, and reliance upon them must be tempered when evaluating the size of past earthquakes.

By focusing on the most dramatic damage and other effects of an earthquake, news stories can provide an unbalanced view of a disaster. For historical earthquakes it is difficult to estimate the effects of this bias. However, a recently deadly earthquake--the M7.6 Bhuj, India earthquake of 2001--provided an unprecedented opportunity to compare the media accounts with the results of an exhaustive, ground-based survey of damage.

"This study isn’t about the media," says Susan E. Hough, co-author of the paper and a seismologist at the U. S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, California. "It isn’t the job of the media to provide a detailed survey of the effects of an earthquake. It’s the seismologist’s job to evaluate media and other written accounts. We need to do careful, balanced assessments of accounts of past earthquakes to understand the hazard from future earthquakes. Media accounts have a built-in bias that is natural to telling any story – whether by a journalist or by an eyewitness."

The severity of an earthquake can be expressed in terms of intensity, which is based on observations by eyewitnesses to the ground motion and the shaking of buildings, trees, and anything in the surrounding area. The perceived intensity varies within the affected zone, depending upon the location of the witness to the epicenter.

In "Quantifying the ‘Media Bias" in Intensity Surveys: Lessons from the 2001 Bhuj, India, Earthquake," Hough and co-author Prabhas Pande, Ph.D, Director, Earthquake Geology Division Geological Survey of India, studied the effects of the 7.6 Bhuj earthquake that occurred on 26 January 2001. This quake was felt across much of the Indian subcontinent, and official government figures cited 13,800 fatalities and 166,000 injuries.

Two independent intensity surveys evaluated the earthquake: one based on extensive news articles written in the early aftermath of the earthquake and the other based on direct surveys and interviews conducted by the Geological Survey of India. The comparison yielded important information for seismologists who interpret past events for which only written accounts are available.

"The research confirmed the tendency of written accounts to focus on the most dramatic, rather than representative effects in their accounts," write the authors. Further, the authors conclude that the media bias "can be significant, and is most severe at the strongest shaking levels."

Nan Broadbent | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.seismosoc.org
http://www.eurekalert.org/images/release_graphics/pdf/MEDIABIAS.BSSA.pdf
http://www.eurekalert.org/images/release_graphics/pdf/97-2_TOC_InOrder.pdf

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bodyguards in the gut have a chemical weapon

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

SF State astronomer searches for signs of life on Wolf 1061 exoplanet

20.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Treated carbon pulls radioactive elements from water

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>