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 Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction
26.07.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds
25.07.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Programming cells with computer-like logic

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period

27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>