Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

New Hope For Predicting Earthquakes

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the give-it-a-fair-shake dept.

Earth 27

Kristina writes "Interviews with several geophysicists reveal that new data and new understandings about how earthquakes really happen inspire some hope in pursuing the short-term prediction of earthquakes. 'Much of the current work aims to decode how stress is distributed and redistributed far below the surface and among more than one fault in an area. Understanding that pattern could help scientists recognize when stress is setting the stage for a large quake.' This article goes into the latest ideas on what we know and don't know about when large earthquakes happen, and it talks with two Italian scientists about the large quake that hit central Italy in April."

cancel ×

27 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

This is your life, Slashdot! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29076629)

Imagine a giant penis flying towards your mouth, and there's nothing you can do about it. And you're like "Oh man, I'm gonna have to suck this thing", and you brace yourself to suck this giant penis. But then, at the last moment, it changes trajectory and hits you in the eye. You think to yourself "Well, at least I got that out of the way", but then the giant penis rears back and stabs your eye again, and again, and again. Eventually, this giant penis is penetrating your gray matter, and you begin to lose control of your motor skills. That's when the giant penis slaps you across the cheek, causing you to fall out of your chair. Unable to move and at your most vulnerable, the giant penis finally lodges itself in your anus, where it rests uncomfortably for 4, maybe 5 hours. That's what using Slashdot is like.

Re:This is your life, Slashdot! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29076763)

Try classic mode

Re:This is your life, Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29078623)

Yes well, this is clearly your fantasy.

Related research (2, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#29076665)

If you can figure out when fatigued metal will break under a certain sheer force, that's approximately the same class of problem. It hasn't happened yet, AFAIK.

Re:Related research (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29076691)

If you can figure out when fatigued metal will break under a certain sheer force, that's approximately the same class of problem. It hasn't happened yet, AFAIK.

True, I suppose ... although the scale of the problem is somewhat greater. Rock also tends to flow under pressure, so it's not a simple matter of shear force.

Re:Related research (1)

terremoto (679350) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079431)

True, I suppose ... although the scale of the problem is somewhat greater. Rock also tends to flow under pressure, so it's not a simple matter of shear force.

... and the places where earthquakes occur are deep in the earth [wikipedia.org] and not amenable to direct observation. Earthquake prediction, in the sense of saying when any specific event will occur, is a very hard problem.

Re:Related research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29080877)

True, I suppose ... although the scale of the problem is somewhat greater. Rock also tends to flow under pressure, so it's not a simple matter of shear force.

... and the places where earthquakes occur are deep in the earth [wikipedia.org] and not amenable to direct observation. Earthquake prediction, in the sense of saying when any specific event will occur, is a very hard problem.

We just need the Enterprise's main sensor suite.

Re:Related research (1)

drseuk (824707) | more than 4 years ago | (#29076861)

This problem was solved years ago by millions of UK 80s kids carrying out large scale research much to the dismay of kitchen moms and to the delight of cutlery manufacturers. Yuri Geller has a lot to answer for except in Sheffield where he's supposedly more popular than the Queen.

Re:Related research (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080679)

If you can figure out when fatigued metal will break under a certain sheer force, that's approximately the same class of problem. It hasn't happened yet, AFAIK.

There are machines for that. Your can measure the tensile strength and sheer resistance of metals rather precisely, and with enough accuracy for just about all practical applications (except perhaps Bridges in Minneapolis).

But rocks as various depths are a problem of a different nature. Measuring is hit or miss, and flat impossible in most strata. Rocks actually flow and deform. There is no such thing as a pure rock formation.

Its a lot harder.

Re:Related research (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29086103)

If you can figure out when fatigued metal will break under a certain sheer force, that's approximately the same class of problem. It hasn't happened yet, AFAIK.

That situation would be analogous to understanding the faulting behaviour of arbitrarily large units of quite homogeneous rock - say a gabbroic or ultrabasic intrusion. Which is, a moderately good first-order description of the axial complex of a mid-ocean ridge and the oceanic slab that rolls off the conveyor by continuous casting.

The next step of course is to extend the work to rock structures that vary in composition against position. Then you'll need to extend the work to take into account that these laterally variable rock units are also variable in mechanical strength, as they have micro-fractures, and meso-fractures, and mega-fractures. Now these compositional variations and strength variations are further complicated by the fact that some (but not all) of these various scales of fracture are partly annealed back towards their original strength.

Oh, there is progress being made I have no doubt. But I wouldn't bet on the problem being solved any time soon. For a start, we're not going to get the degree of information that we need to characterise the full thickness of the crust in an area of interest. I did an analysis of this scale of problem a while ago in the context of characterising the Yellowstone calderas - it's not impossible, but it's a multi-billion dollar project. Putting up with earthquakes may well be cheaper. (I do of course discount the millions of likely victims ; they're most likely to be poor and Indian, and so don't count. It's much easier to count the number of Californian houses that may need redecorating than accounting for lives lost.)

Quake live? (2, Funny)

drseuk (824707) | more than 4 years ago | (#29076743)

But does it run on Linux?

Re:Quake live? (1)

virmaior (1186271) | more than 4 years ago | (#29077135)

only if accept libraries that are not GPL-compliant in your distro.

Question: (1)

Skratchez (1304839) | more than 4 years ago | (#29078795)

I recently heard an interesting question from someone on somethingawful. "What would an earthquake feel like from an airplane?" Curiously, the question went unanswered and I was wondering if any of you engineer types had a good answer.

Re:Question: (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29079861)

> "What would an earthquake feel like from an airplane?"

It wouldn't unless the airplane was on the ground. Whyever would anyone think it would?

Re:Question: (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080173)

I knew someone who experienced a 7+ earthquake while on a bus, and he didn't realize anything was happening until he saw rocks falling down the side of the mountain. I expect people in a plane would feel similarly, even if somehow the quake traveled through the air. Anecdotally I noticed no air movement or changes in any of the earthquakes I've been in.

Re:Question: (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 4 years ago | (#29081435)

Bus must not have been a school bus with no shocks, but one of those cross-country starliners with all the bells and whistles...

Re:Question: (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29081459)

Could have been, I didn't ask. It was in El Salvador......I suspect the bus was bouncing up and down so much naturally that the gentle rocking of an earthquake would be hard to feel above that.

Re:Question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29086727)

Well, "gentle rocking" is a bit optimistic for a really severe earthquake. Quite often the shaking is severe enough that people are unable to remain standing, and I suspect such shaking would be noticeable in a moving road vehicle, especially of course by the driver. But certainly minor quakes will pass unnoticed by people in cars. Planes will naturally not be affected at all, but people in balloons would probably hear a quake, they can be quite noisy. In the 1931 Napier earthquake in New Zealand the crew on a ship at anchor near the shore certainly noticed the quake, since the seabed came up and smacked the bottom of the ship.

Re:Question: (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29087119)

Well AC, I don't know if you will come back and read this, but for the benefit of anyone else who might come by, I described it as gentle rocking because that is what it feels like. The largest earthquake I've experienced personally was a 7.6, and that was certainly gentle rocking, although the earth did move quite a bit. It is kind of a comforting feeling actually, if you can get past the fear of your own death and the realization that people are probably dying. If people have trouble walking, it is probably because of panic, not from the actual shaking.

Also, one of the first things you may notice about an earthquake if you are ever in one is they are very quiet. Unless buildings are falling down or creaking, there really isn't much noise.

Re:Question: (1)

baegucb (18706) | more than 4 years ago | (#29089467)

I've been in many quakes when living in California. All of the big ones made a noise like a train coming.

Re:Question: (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29092815)

I'm guessing it was the buildings around you that were making the noise.

Re:Question: (1)

baegucb (18706) | more than 4 years ago | (#29095987)

There aren't too many buildingd in the middle of the ocean.
http://www.sciencentral.com/articles/view.php3?article_id=218392711 [sciencentral.com]
and there's an mp3 recording of it here:
http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news/2005/07_20_05.htm [columbia.edu]
So yes, you are guessing, but incorrectly. A bit of searching on the net shows this is not a rarity. My guess, is they all make sound but I'll leave that as an exercise for someone else to look up.

Re:Question: (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29096221)

Did you even listen to that recording? It was an underwater recording, not what a human would normally hear during an earthquake, and it wasn't all that loud.

Re:Question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29098453)

I recently heard an interesting question from someone on somethingawful. "What would an earthquake feel like from an airplane?" Curiously, the question went unanswered and I was wondering if any of you engineer types had a good answer.

Presumably the other posters thought it was a stupid question and politely ignored it rather than hold the questioner up for ridicule for asking it.

The point? (1)

Alsn (911813) | more than 4 years ago | (#29080309)

Other than to satisfy our curiosity I have to wonder what the point is? What exactly would we do to prepare for an earthquake that we don't already do(such as construct sturdier buildings or educate people on places where it's a good idea to take cover)?

Unless predicting involves the exact time which doesn't seem to be the case and I doubt will ever be possible what exactly will we do with the knowledge that "it's coming, soonish"?

Re:The point? (1)

NewsWatcher (450241) | more than 4 years ago | (#29081277)

What exactly would we do to prepare for an earthquake that we don't already do(such as construct sturdier buildings or educate people on places where it's a good idea to take cover)?
I am not sure if that is a serious question or not. The obvious answer is that so people can evacuate to somewhere safe.
If I lived in an earthquake zone I would be much happier if I could be told ahead of time when a big one was expected.

Remember - its Forecasting not Prediction (1)

Diamonddavej (851495) | more than 4 years ago | (#29096919)

An interesting article. The upper continental crust deforms in a brittle manner and is amenable to modeling via Finite Element Analysis (FEA). For example McCloskey et al. (2005) used FEA to forecast an increased risk of a major earthquake on the Sumatra Subduction Zone immediately south-east of the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, due to a massive build up of post-seismic stress. Sure enough, within weeks there was an 8.8 Mag earthquake in the right place.

It is possible today, and there are several other examples, where forecasts have predicted the location of increased seismic risk after a major earthquake. Large earthquakes radically change the crustal stress field, increasing the risk of earthquakes in specific areas surrounding the area of initial slip. Forecasts are useful in warning survivors and emergency workers of the location and risk of aftershocks following a major earthquake. But McCloskey et al. (2005) and Jeff McGuire are a special examples, as the structural geology of the Sumatran Subduction Zone and the East Pacific Rise are far simpler than the continental crust and were easy to model, unlike e.g. the North Anatolian fault, Turkey, where the same technique has been applied with less success.

But I agree with the article, the technique will improve when the accuracy of geological data improves. And just like weather forecasting, once we have higher resolution data earthquake forecasts will improve. We might forecast some foreshocks too one day, but that would need a dense array of instruments (I'm skeptical of electromagnetic effects preceding large earthquakes i.e. prediction). This will only ever be available in the US, Europe and Japan, it will never be a certain science and only applicable to certain fault zones. Lastly, the excessive skepticism by many in the geological community to earthquake forecasting annoys me, who are rightly skeptical of and mix it up with prediction. But this is not prediction, earthquake forecasting deserves to be accepted and researched.

McCloskey J, Nalbant SS, Steacy S (2005) Indonesian earthquake: Earthquake risk from co-seismic stress. Nature 434:291.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>