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Using Toads to Predict Earthquakes

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-does-the-toad-think? dept.

NASA 78

ClockEndGooner writes "The BBC is reporting that a team led by Dr. Friedemann Freund from NASA and Dr. Rachel Grant from the UK's Open University have found that 'animals may sense chemical changes in groundwater that occur when an earthquake is about to strike.' Just prior to the quake that struck L'Aquila, Italy in 2009, Grant observed a mass toad exodus from a colony she was monitoring as part of her PhD project, and her published results prompted NASA to contact her as they found that highly stressed tectonic plates released a greater amount of positively charged ions that affected the water quality, which was sensed by the toads. According to NASA's Freund, 'Once we understand how all of these signals are connected, if we see four of five signals all pointing in [the same] direction, we can say, "ok, something is about to happen."'"

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78 comments

Better Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38234794)

Why don't we just keep building and destroying habitats and act clueless when earthquakes happen?

Glory to the Hypno-Toad! (0, Troll)

AlienSexist (686923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38234820)

whiiiiiiiiiiiiir. Thank you Matt Groening. So Hypno-Toad can predict earthquakes, or does it make you think that it did?

Re:Glory to the Hypno-Toad! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38235038)

whiiiiiiiiiiiiir. Thank you Matt Groening. So Hypno-Toad can predict earthquakes, or does it make you think that it did?

Hypno-toad makes you think the lame, unoriginal, pathetic bullshit you just posted is somehow cute and funny because you threw in a reference to a TV show lots of people like.

You're like that guy at a party. You know, *that* one. When something funny happens, he can't just laugh if he thinks it's funny or not-laugh if he doesn't. That wouldn't address his insecurities and his need to feel part of the group at all times. No, instead he starts to laugh a little and then looks around, trying to find anyone else who is laughing. If he doesn't find anyone he shuts up immediately. If he does find someone else laughing he starts laughing out loud like he wanted to do in the first place.

I'm sure you'll get the +5 Funny you were fishing for. They give them to anybody who even looks like they want one, making this one of the very worst places to have a laugh at genuinely spontaneous and witty humor, just more recycled memes and bullshit like yours. So don't worry.

Re:Glory to the Hypno-Toad! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38235322)

your lame attempt to suggest that you have gone to parties is pathetic.

Re:Glory to the Hypno-Toad! (2)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38237850)

Hey, I'm *that* guy... but it's probably because I have a touch of aspergers and lack the ability to recognize some of the social cues you are overwhelmingly blessed with. I can tell that if I were at a party, I'd be looking to you to clue me in on what's funny.

Re:Glory to the Hypno-Toad! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38245168)

Sorry sir, you've been diagnosed with sarcasm.

When I was a boy (5, Interesting)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#38234826)

Years ago when I was a young lad back on the toad farm (4000 head) I recall the sensitivity the toads had to various climatic and environmental changes. I would go into the barn where about 1000 of our toads where housed at any one time, it could be a sunny day with a clear blue sky, and the toads would be twitching, bumping into each other and whatnot. Sometimes it would get really scary as I feared for my safety from their bucking and random jaunting. But anyway, it seemed they would start reacting to storms way before any human could even sense them. After a while you learned to read the toads and know what was coming.

Re:When I was a boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38235116)

Yes, and they are great licking too!

Re:When I was a boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236124)

So is your mom but you don't see ALL of us bringing that up every chance we get.

Re:When I was a boy (3, Interesting)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236414)

I have to ask:

Toad farm? Really? Why farm toads? To eat?

I too grew up in a farming village. Sheep, cows, pigs - all the normal animals.

A toad farm? Really? :)

Re:When I was a boy (2)

danlip (737336) | more than 2 years ago | (#38238278)

Why farm toads? To eat?

To lick.

Re:When I was a boy (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38245344)

I have to ask:

Toad farm? Really? Why farm toads? To eat?

To test how gullible the moderators are.

Re:When I was a boy (1)

sydneyfong (410107) | more than 2 years ago | (#38248270)

It's probably not what the GP is talking about, but the Chinese do eat "toads".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Edible_Frog [wikipedia.org]

Not one of my favorite foods but it does taste like chicken.

Re:When I was a boy (1)

nobodie (1555367) | more than 2 years ago | (#38260580)

It is quite lovely when prepared Sichuan style. My whole family loves them

Re:When I was a boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38238504)

best. troll. evar.

Re:When I was a boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38242120)

I am stunned that no one else realized it. Kudos to the toad troll.

Re:When I was a boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255744)

He is not a troll, you fucking idiot. Trolling is not the same as joking, one tries to make the reader laugh while the other makes the reader want to kill the poster. And it has to be intentional, so no points for you.

Toads and earthquakes? (1)

DrDeusEx (2480078) | more than 2 years ago | (#38234834)

Toads! I Knew it!

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (5, Interesting)

TheInternetGuy (2006682) | more than 2 years ago | (#38234990)

I live in Japan, and it has long been an old-wife's tale here that Toads and frogs will go quiet and disappear before big earth quakes. And that has been documented to happen in connection with the 3/11 earth quake. Some scientists have suggested that large amounts of Radon is released when pressure builds up before a quake, and that the toads are able to detect this. Another old-wifes tale is that eels also are able to predict earth quakes ( I have yet to understand exactly how they then communicate this to humans) And lastly there were many news articles connecting the fore and after shocks of 3/11 to group dolphin stranding on the affected coasts. There are also stories about wells in Japanese Temples, that are usually murky but turns clear before major earth quakes. Finally it is also said here that temperatures ( or perceived temperature) raise before a quake. All though I have actually found this to be true on several occasions I still believe it is coincidental (or maybe due to selective memory processes).

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (3, Interesting)

korgitser (1809018) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235380)

Well the scientific world usually neglects correlations without a plausible causation. The disbelief that science has had towards the stories stems from, I believe, the fact that not every story can be taken on face value. Our thinking tradition with it's platonic roots has much trouble accepting non-formalised discoure. But what _we_ have as formalised science, literature, psychology, history, 'old wives' have all as stories.
What I would like to see is this frog story being a part of a movement to look into the correlations in all those old-wives stories, fairy tales and words of wisdom. For the thing is, these stories are what kept people alive and kicking for thousands of years, and this means they create a lot more profit than loss. If the japanese say that frogs or eels know earthquakes, I'd look into it. Who else should know better about earthquakes than the old japanese, who had to survive before quakeproof houses?
The old wives tales are a product of evolution by trial-and-error. It has made progress by saving/taking, making/ruining lives. The fact that it was what spawned science already speaks of it's prowess. It should be time for science to listen to it's father again.

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (3, Informative)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235898)

Found a whole book on this topic: Earthquakes and animals: from folk legends to science, By M. Ikeya (Google Books) [google.com] . Studies going back to at least 1923 are found via Google Scholar [google.com] . I'd be all in favor of studies which would figure out what mechanisms are involved here; we in the Pacific NW of the US are due for a real monster of a subduction quake someday, the hardship and loss of life will be quite extreme, and some advance notice would be welcome, to say the least.

Of course, test it out in some region which is prone to frequent minor quakes. And hope that it works in a region like ours, with very strong temblors happening about every half millennium. I'd assume it would, as Japanese quakes are also brought on by subduction; or is that only the case with the very strong ones?

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236964)

Also noteworthy is that the number of frogs and toads in the Pacific Northwest has been dropping very fast for several years.

Why are they all going away? Is this the early warning that parent post was looking for?

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (2)

Reece400 (584378) | more than 2 years ago | (#38238724)

I wonder if Fracking causes a similar effect for toads as Earthquakes do?

Earthquake prediction (5, Interesting)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38240282)

Seismology Ph.D. student, here. Bear with me here as I don't recall the sources for this but if you do enough Googling, I'm sure you can find them. I wrote a paper on the history of Japanese seismology for my undergrad senior project (included some information from Japanese textbooks that might not be available in English), so I've read a lot of about this subject.

People have noticed phenomena such as bizarre animal behavior, earthquake lights, and earthquake clouds since the dawn of time, and more recently people have noticed an increased charge in the ionosphere before earthquakes. A NASA scientist has also shown that a spike in electric current will run through a rock moments before the rock fractures.

Much research has been done by Chinese and Japanese regarding animals. Japanese believed for hundreds of years that earthquakes were caused by catfish. They based this on much historical evidence of catfish going crazy shortly before an earthquake. At one time in Japanese history, "catfish" and "earthquake" were used as interchangeable words. There were lots of science experiments and observations done regarding catfish in the early 1900s at a lab in Aomori prefecture. A famous early Japanese seismologist (his name escapes me) found an incontrovertible correlation between oarfish catches and some seismic swarm in the 1960s. There was an earthquake in Hokkaido a few decades ago that was foreshadowed by all of the mice on the island running amok in the streets. It is common folk knowledge that when deep sea fish appear near the surface en masse, a large earthquake will strike soon.

I don't know as much about Chinese seismological history, but it's commonly believed and has been shown that snakes can detect earthquakes. There have been studies and anecdotal evidence in Chinese seismology of snakes that will awake from hibernation before an earthquake. My Taiwanese adviser claimed that the Chinese scientists determined that sulfur gasses produced similar behavior in hibernating snakes. I also should note that China is the only place in the world where there is a government mandate to study earthquake prediction, event if it's fruitless. Every seismological bureau in China (there is one in every province) must look into earthquake prediction. There is a stigma about earthquake prediction and looking at animal behavior in the West, but that stigma is much less severe in Asia, especially China.

In addition to Asia, every time there's a major earthquake in the Western world, I see stories like this, like "I'm a biologist and my frogs went berserk the day leading up to the earthquake," or "I'm a zoologist and my alligators did weird things before the earthquake." There is clearly some link between animal behavior and earthquakes that has been shown repeatedly throughout history.

Lastly, it wasn't but a year ago I saw posters at a seismology meeting about huge spikes in ionosphere charge before large earthquakes. This has been shown repeatedly to happen all over the world.

Now for the bad news. This past Seismological Society of America meeting, I saw a poster from NASA research debunking a specific ionosphere charge before a large earthquake result. There are many large earthquakes that are preceded by a huge spike in ionosphere charge. The problem is that there are many, many other times where there are equally, if not more severe spikes in ionosphere charge. The ionosphere likes to have charge spikes relatively frequently. How can you tell the difference between a normal day with a high ionosphere charge and the day before an earthquake? Well, you can't. At least we cant, yet.

The NASA scientist that has shown electrical current running through rocks the moment before a fracture is also very controversial. His results are extremely promising for seismology. The problem is that we've never been able to observe an increased charge in the ground or a change in resistivity before an earthquake. Look up Parkfield, CA. That place is loaded with instruments for earthquake prediction like no other in the world. We haven't been able to shown any reliable earthquake precursors. In fact, the largest study ever conducted to predict a recurring earthquake in Parkfield was a terrible failure. The place is loaded to an extreme with instruments. The Parkfield experiment was supposed to solve earthquake prediction. Unfortunately, not only was the earthquake much later than expected, but there were literally no precursors. The failure at Parkfield discouraged basically the entire US seismology community from earthquake prediction.

Animals are also a sticky subject. Yes, certain animals have been shown to sense earthquakes hours or even days before it happens. But how can you determine between when a catfish jumps out of the water from an impending earthquake, or when it just jumps out of the water because it's scared of some bass from a car that drives by? Animals are not scientific instruments. They are not reliable. And no study has shown that animals are a reliable tool for earthquake prediction. It has been studied many times, especially in Asia. Sometimes they do predict an earthquake, but more often they do not. And there's no way to tell if they're spooked from an earthquake or just acting up.

Seismologists are very unhappy that we've been at it for over a hundred years and still can't even remotely predict earthquakes. There are so many earthquake precursors that have been shown throughout history, but they are always either shown to be unreliable, statistically insignificant, or false. There is probably a solution out there somewhere, but it will take many more years of research to get to, if it's even possible. Some people say it isn't.

Re:Earthquake prediction (1)

versimilidude (39954) | more than 2 years ago | (#38241004)

fascinating. Moderators- mod this post up. It's knowledgeable, true balanced, multi-viewpoint science. Something we don't see a lot of here.

Re:Earthquake prediction (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249386)

Good post, balanced, sober and realistic. Well worth the effort of your writing it.

There is probably a solution out there somewhere, but it will take many more years of research to get to, if it's even possible. Some people say it isn't.

There is possibly a solution out there, but I know of no law of nature that requires there to be a reliable precursor signal, let alone a single, reliable, universally applicable signal.

It is plausible that particular faults may have reliable precursors along particular segments, but that a different fault would have different local circumstances, resulting in that particular precursor being useless. For example, a fault between crystalline basement blocks could well have a strong resistivity response in advance of fracture ; but 5km along the fault, you could have it in water-wet sedimentary cover, with a completely different resistivity response to accumulating stress.

In short, you may have to study and understand every single fault, and develop a specific prediction plan for each segment of that fault. And the unknown faults, like the blind thrust that "went" in a late-last-century Californian quake? That's a Rumsfeldian (?) "known unknown."

The problem of false positives and false negatives plagues the field. Which is not being helped by the prosecution of the Italian seismologists. You wouldn't catch me entering the field (I'm an oilfield geologist - pays quite nicely, thank you).

See my post above for earthquake mitigation comments, and also comments on the expected death toll for the next Ganges valley mega-quake.

Concerning this particular work ... I'm reading T.F.Paper [nih.gov] ... which discusses groudwater changes recorded over Izmit 1999 (a friend of mine slept through that earthquake after her eclipse-chasing holiday ; she's never lived it down), carbon monoxide emissions from the ground (Gujarat, 2001 ; 0.25ppmv - that might be visible on a diver's CO meter?) , a suggestion of (electronic) hole formation and movement into the atmosphere to explain the diverse phenomena ... well it's a rational hypothesis.

BUT ... it depends on there being a linkage between the highly strained region of rock and the surface. Which with dry(-ish) crystalline basement, I can believe. But put a cover of sediments, particularly several kilometres of alternating mud-rock and sandstone/ limestones on top of your strained fault surface, and ask for it to transmit material (ions, holes, gases from oxidised organic matter) at rates of several kilometres per day? That's not going to work very well, IMHO.

Anyway ... it's a proposal. Lets put it to the test. Did this family of phenomena work for Parkfield? Strange - they make precisely *no* mention of Parkfield. Which is peculiar, given the amount of data collected [usgs.gov] . Trouble is, the data isn't nice and clean ; there's a nice sort-of-weekly trend in pore pressure [usgs.gov] , for example.

It doesn't look likely to fly to me. You're the seismology bod - are you convinced?

Re:Earthquake prediction (1)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252188)

A lot of seismology veterans are completely jaded from the failure of the Parkfield experiments to turn up any precursors. I'm new to the field and young, so understandably I'm more optimistic.

In my opinion, there are clearly some precursors to some earthquakes. There is a huge variety of precursors to choose from for any given fault.

1. Seismic gap. Some faults signal an imminent earthquake by a sudden drop in seismicity: suddenly there are no earthquakes; that means the fault is not moving, not releasing stress, and when it finally does move, it'll move a lot very quickly.

2. Small strain. The Tohoku region supposedly had relatively small strain rates from GPS data (i.e., the land wasn't deforming very quickly). Some Japanese seismologists argued that the results meant that the fault was locked and still building up stress, and yet others argued that the fault was simply not that active, anymore. The seismologists arguing that the fault was locked and would give way to a huge earthquake proved to be correct. However, the strain rates would have been small for hundreds of years. Saying there's going to be an earthquake sometime because this fault is not moving much is not much better prediction than we can do now.

3. Electrical current/resistivity/ionosphere charge. This kind of thing has been reported for so long that I'm certain that it's a real phenomena. People throughout history took notice of "earthquake lights" before an earthquake. Scientists never believed them until the Japanese actually took pictures of earthquake lights several decades ago. People have also reported seeing strange lights floating above the ground, strange cloud formations, and spikes in ionosphere charge seem to happen frequently enough. The sharp current in rocks immediately before fracture (NASA scientist) is also promising. None of these things are very reliable, though;

4. Gases, ground water changes. If as my adviser said, that snakes wake up from hibernation due to some kind of gases is true, that surely shows some leakage of gas from the ground before an earthquake. If I recall, there is also Japanese folklore discussing strange smells before earthquakes. I believe earthquake cloud people also claim that some escaping of gases contributes to earthquake clouds. And there have been many studies about well water depth and composition changes before earthquakes.

5. Stress buildup and recurrence. There are many earthquakes that occur periodically. We can see that the Great Tokai Quake in Japan occurs every ~150 years and it's been 156 years since the last one. We can measure the stress buildup on the fault and say, "if this whole fault goes, there will be a M8.X earthquake." However, despite how obvious this method is, it's also woefully unreliable. The Parkfield earthquake happened every 20 or so years for as long as people have lived in California, and only the past one was 20 years late (and with no precursors).

In my opinion, there are a lot of different precursors that do happen, but don't reliably happen. But before I entered seismology, I seriously considered meteorology. To me, predicting an earthquake is not too much different than predicting a tornado, albeit more difficult. For tornadoes, we use radar to measure particle velocity in the clouds, and issue warnings after some set of circumstances has been fulfilled. If there is strong rotation or a wall cloud, there is a tornado warning. Despite the clear understanding that tornadoes form from strong downdrafts in strongly rotating thunderstorms and supercells, and they most frequently drop from wall clouds, not all rotating wall clouds produce tornadoes. In fact, most wall clouds do not produce tornadoes. We haven't given up predicting tornadoes, though, and we certainly don't regard tornado warnings as useless. We just accept that most tornadoes happen when there is a rotating wall cloud, and sometimes, but rarely, tornadoes will happen outside of expected circumstances that we can't predict.

Perhaps we should rethink earthquake prediction; it needs to have more public and engineering involvement. I think that it's inevitable that someday in the distant future we will be able to say "circumstances are prime for an earthquake", and be able to issue some kind of earthquake watches or warnings, just like the weather. But a tornado watch doesn't mean that everyone should worry and get ready to run to the basement, and a tornado warning even doesn't mean that we should panic, stop what we're doing, and run to the basement (although we should get ready to do so). Buildings should be strong enough to not collapse, and people should be confident enough of their buildings that they can hide under a table and be safe. An earthquake warning would mean, "we don't know if an earthquake is going to strike, but if the earthquake alarm starts sounding, let's remember what we practiced in our earthquake drills." It wouldn't mean that everyone should camp outside for a week until danger passes.

A lot of the older seismologists are simply jaded from over 100 years of unsuccessful earthquake prediction, and especially that we are still unable to predict them even after the explosive growth in understanding of earthquakes of the past 50 years. I think we are trying too hard to do the impossible and need to work harder on what we can do. We should accept that there are many possible precursors, of which any given earthquake may or may not exhibit. Some will exhibit multiple, and others will exhibit none. We should accept that some earthquakes will be unpredictable and move on; we shouldn't abandon prediction of all earthquakes. In addition, I think we should strive to change the notion of an "earthquake warning" from "everyone run out of the building and camp in tents for a week" to "be prepared to seek shelter should your earthquake alarms start sounding." We also need to work on good earthquake alarm systems such as Japan's UrEDAS and Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) systems. Seismologists should be able to say, "this area that we expect an earthquake in is exhibiting possible precursors X, Y, and Z. If the whole fault ruptures, we know it will produce an earthquake of magnitude X due to the stress that has built up on the fault since the last quake. Be prepared to seek shelter." Politicians need to work to keep people from panicking from such a warning; instead we should be prepared. We should not be prosecuting seismologists for failed warnings or the lack of a warning.

Re:Earthquake prediction (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38261112)

In my opinion, there are clearly some precursors to some earthquakes. There is a huge variety of precursors to choose from for any given fault.

I would need to see it demonstrated that the same precursors are effective along extended sections of particular faults for extended periods of time. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that changes in the wall rock nature would mean that, where the wall rocks are different, different physical processes are the limiting processes for the stress at which the fault slips. Therefore, as the wall rocks vary, the limiting processes vary, and therefore the precursors (if any) vary. That is, for a particular fault, the nature of the precursors can vary with position (on the fault, as well as depth and confining pressure). I can also see that things will change with time - for example the accumulation of fault gouge / mylonite on a fault plane is going to change the roughness of the fault plane, and therefore the confining pressure to frictional force relation.

I think that it's inevitable that someday in the distant future we will be able to say "circumstances are prime for an earthquake", and be able to issue some kind of earthquake watches or warnings, just like the weather.

I certainly wouldn't go as far as to say "inevitable" ; "possible" I might go to. But that possibility would only apply to, as best a class of fault planes with common characteristics of wall rock, confining pressure, normal contact pressure (and probably accumulated slip distance - to account for mylonite formation etc). A different fault a kilometre away (in different orientation, wall rock or slip history) could perfectly well require it's own, different, prediction.

Politicians need to work to keep people from panicking from such a warning; instead we should be prepared.

People aren't very good at not panicking. Which is why, at my work, we have safety drills (fire on board ; abandon ship by helicopter ; abandon by lifeboat ; man overboard ; poison gas ; collision with un-powered vessel) at frequent intervals : to drive conditioned, conservative responses into people's guts, not into their heads. In this respect, politicians are, at best, no better than the man on the Clapham Omnibus.

I know that the Japanese (and I'd suspect the Icelanders too) have regular municipal earthquake preparedness drills. Which seems to have a beneficial effect. I wonder - does Hawaii do regular tsunami drills. Different societies have differing degrees of acceptance of such time-consuming, expensive and scary efforts. I don't think that the UK would swallow such drills (but with an average of a couple of people killed per century, it's hardly a pressing concern) ; California might. What would a Kansan (Kansasan?) who moved to California make of such a parochial difference?

I'm sure that there are a lot of behavioural matters that could be improved on ; compared to the technical difficulties and inherent complexity of the question of earthquake prediction (short term, regionally precise prediction), they are low-hanging fruit. Medium-hanging fruit dwell on the "building engineering" tree ("earthquakes don't kill people ; falling buildings kill people" - is a truism, but a close approximation to the truth nonetheless). SAFOD ; the Parkfield experiments ; the continuing research into ionospheric current indicators, are higher-hanging fruit, which may be noxious or nutritious, and are waving around on the branches so much, it's not even really clear which tree they're on. Worth pursuing ; but the lower-hanging fruit will have faster effects, more reliably.

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249092)

we in the Pacific NW of the US are due for a real monster of a subduction quake someday, the hardship and loss of life will be quite extreme,

Quite correct.

and some advance notice would be welcome, to say the least.

here is your advance notice : at some point in the next half-millennium, the Pacific NW coast of America is going to suffer a major (8+, possibly 9+ moment magnitude) earthquake. At that time, being somewhere else would be a very good idea.

Feel free to choose when you want to leave.

I know that you want something more precise ; at the moment there is no technique that can deliver, reliably, higher precision than the advance notice I've given above. I'm sorry, but Nature is not obligated to provide that information and there is no (known) law of nature that obligates nature to reveal that information. All techniques that are in use for higher precision earthquake prediction have a high false positive rate and a high false negative rate ; in short, they're statistically so close to useless that you'd be better off using a good quality random number generator.

This is not good news (for you), but it is honest.

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249350)

we in the Pacific NW of the US are due for a real monster of a subduction quake someday, the hardship and loss of life will be quite extreme,

BTW, whatever the loss of life when the Cascadia fault lets go ... it's almost certain to be dwarfed by the next "big one" in the Ganges valley area. The historical earthquake records are comparable, and the timescale to the next "big one" is likely to be similar. The population at risk in the Ganges area is considerably higher, and building standards and infrastructure are much poorer. Off the back of an envelope, tens of millions of deaths are entirely credible.

While I understand your concerns about your back yard being shaken up, in terms of body-count, the Californian "big one" and the Cascadia "big one" put together simply don't come into consideration compared to the payoff (in terms of people-not-killed) from successfully predicting the Ganges "big one" and managing the consequences more optimally than is likely.

Just move. If it's a serious concern to you, move. If it's not such a serious concern, then look to moving away from soft (shake-amplifying) ground to a higher, bedrock based area (this will almost certainly improve your likelihood of not being killed by floods, dam bursts, or lahars from some of the Cascadia volcanoes - you've got to pay attention to them too, in your region). Make sure that your house has a week or two of rations in "dry store" (expect to lose all electrical power, so you're going to be eating the freezer contents first). Do you like camping? Keep your sleeping bags in the house and in good condition ; your stove(s) to hand with several weeks worth of fuel ; expect to need to survive for a couple of mid-winter weeks with minimal external assistance. Identify water sources ; store purification supplies. Keep diarrhoea treatment drugs in the house too.

Well done ; you're now better equipped to survive than 99% of your neighbours. Prepare some recipes for "long pig" and you can benefit from their lack of forethought and have some fresh meat when they do die.

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (1)

kryliss (72493) | more than 2 years ago | (#38242652)

"It should be time for science to listen to it's father again."

Don't you mean It should be time for science to listen to it's mother again."?

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38235924)

Eels? Well, that explains why nobody has ever seen the tsuchinoko in Japan -- too many earthquakes all the time. ;-) Oh wait, tsuchinoko is some kind of snake, not an eel... Whatever, maybe it evolved after Hiroshima and eats radon for breakfast while having morning tea with Godzilla.

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38235598)

Well if your English a toad in the hole means it's Dinner time!

Re:Toads and earthquakes? (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236392)

Plausibly, it is the sudden absence of toads, that cause tectonic stress-levels to change, and cause earthquakes....

no?

If it's raining toads (0)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 2 years ago | (#38234870)

then you have more problems than earthquakes.

Re:If it's raining toads (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38234884)

Lenny Bruce is not afraid!

Instantly made me think of Monty Python (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38234876)

"This new learning intrigues me. Tell me again how a sheep's bladders can prevent earthquakes."

Annual phenomenon? (3, Insightful)

gnatman64 (688246) | more than 2 years ago | (#38234886)

I was just listening to this week's episode of Big Picture Science http://radio.seti.org/ [seti.org] where they addressed this issue, and the scientist they interviewed claimed that the toads that started this whole thing naturally migrate every year. Not sure who's right, but I'm more likely to believe it was a fluke until they can actually prove the ability to predict an earthquake before it happens, and not after.

I've noticed they can give warning of a quake (5, Interesting)

NeoTron (6020) | more than 2 years ago | (#38234952)

Every year there's this cacophony of frog croaks from the frogs that inhabit the rice fields surrounding my house, and I've noticed they go very quiet, a few seconds or just before a quake strikes.

The pheasants, on the other hand, are useless - they only start just after the quake has begun.

Re:I've noticed they can give warning of a quake (4, Insightful)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235362)

That is detection, not prediction. There are several different types of tremors coming from earthquakes, and they travel at different speeds. The toads probably detect some of the faster ones that you don't. They then go quite just before the ones you can detect arrives.

Re:I've noticed they can give warning of a quake (2)

NeoTron (6020) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235512)

Sure, it's detection, and yes, the article talks about prediction.

I just thought my anecdote might be interesting, Mr Pedantic :)

Re:I've noticed they can give warning of a quake (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256432)

I did not mean to imply that it wasn't interesting, I just wanted to point out the difference between that and the article, and offer an explanation for your anecdote.

How did you know that my secret identity was Peter Pedantic?

Re:I've noticed they can give warning of a quake (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236332)

And, the article talks about toads detecting high positive ionic concentration in their water three days before the quake. Three days before tremors are detected. Call it detection if you want, but three days before a tremor is pretty good prediction in my book.

Re:I've noticed they can give warning of a quake (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256438)

The three days are prediction, if that word is to make any sense. The three seconds could be prediction, but is probably detection. And three days prediction of an earthquake would be really big, you can evacuate a lot of people in three days.

Re:I've noticed they can give warning of a quake (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256492)

The big question for me is when they are going to deploy these detectors... apparently the big Japan quake gave similar warnings days in advance. Once the detectors are in place, we'll start to figure out how many false positives, and quakes without warning we get.

Oblig. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38234954)

This new learning amazes me! Explain again how toads can be used to detect earthquakes?

Re:Oblig. (1, Informative)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235286)

Explain again how toads can be used to detect earthquakes?

Predict, not detect.

And the answer is: you tell your haruspex to cut them open and examine their livers.

That would be handy... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235002)

Aside from the issue that groundwater monitoring tends to be one of those things that produces results people hate to hear(yes, Virginia, you are overpumping, your predictions of longterm availability are optimism bordering on fraud, and we still don't know exactly who is releasing those curious new compounds...) measuring things like ion concentrations, charges, pH, and so forth is something you could do with a network of probes at comparatively modest expense...

Re:That would be handy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38235056)

(yes, Virginia, you are overpumping

I can't tell if that's a figure of speech or if you think that there are too many water wells in Virginia, which had a 5.8 quake in August.

Re:That would be handy... (3, Funny)

Guignol (159087) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235248)

No, the parenthesis are not for you to read, he was in the middle of his post and talked to his girlfriend, he must have a speech to text interface, we're lucky he isn't in the toad farm

Re:That would be handy... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236666)

Figure of speech [wikipedia.org] .

Odds are good that Virginia is overpumping, just because everybody is; but I didn't really have anybody in particular in mind.

Florida will probably fail to an utterly undeniable degree first, just because there is so little between it and becoming a saline wasteland; but there is plenty of competition in the middle and long term...

Re:That would be handy... (3, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236318)

I don't know about Virginia, but Florida has been overpumping for decades now, killing coastal forests with saltwater intrusion and killing wet-dry swampy areas by keeping them wet year round with ag runoff.

In Sarasota county, they impose no-car-wash and alternate Thursday lawn watering restrictions, and still the tomato farmers use more water than then entire residential and commercial population. (No, tomato farming is not a major component in Sarasota County's economy, just it's water problems.)

Re:That would be handy... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236704)

I think my favorite Floridian aquatic insanity is the fact that the effective 'price' imposed on certain classes of commercial users is so vanishingly small that it is economically viable for a number of bottled-water bottling operations to feed on the state's bounteous freshwater reserves...

Re:That would be handy... (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38237502)

The locals mostly hate the trucks that come with a bottled water operation, the actual water loss is fairly trivial compared to "flood the field" agriculture.

The recent rash of sinkholes around Lakeland were directly traceable to the strawberry growers "protecting their crop" from a freeze event... some tradeoff: potentially protect a few million $ in strawberries while causing tens of millions $ worth of unpredictable sinkholes, under I-4, several local roads, and houses.

Re:That would be handy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38237094)

Please tell Virginia about the Kama Sutra, which if she would just read it would let her figure out on her own whether she was overpumping.

Rubbish (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235030)

Everybody knows goombas are better at predicting earthquakes.

Re:Rubbish (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236328)

Everybody knows goombas are better at predicting earthquakes.

I don't think it's that hard to predict an earthquake when you see a plumber carrying a large block with "POW" on the side coming towards you.

Science is awesome... (4, Funny)

Mech610 (2317310) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235076)

"And this my lord is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped."

Re:Science is awesome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38242770)

Great replay. I was going to mention "we all know you are supposed to use sheeps' bladders", but you beat me to the Python reference.

I don't see this feature... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38235094)

in the version of TOAD I use. Do I need to upgrade?

you need to lick it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38236170)

you need to lick it

Re:you need to lick it (1)

sempir (1916194) | more than 2 years ago | (#38238580)

Nice friend you turned out to be...........now the poor bugger is gonna have a tongue covered in warts!

Re:I don't see this feature... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38245122)

But it does still croak when you kick it up, no? Good, then it's at least alive mate!

Seriously, you need to bump up the high water mark from your TOAD.

very old news? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38235172)

the ancient chinese seismograph used toads too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EastHanSeismograph.JPG

KEEP YOUR TOADS! (2)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235686)

My cat predicted the earthquakes here in Central Oklahoma, and I'm still trying to scrub the pee out of the carpet! Keep your toads away!

Mass Toad Exodus (0)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235828)

Anyone wishing to see a mass toad exodus should just stand outside corporate headquarters at five o'clock on a Friday.

Can earthquakes predict toads? (3, Insightful)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 2 years ago | (#38235878)

Just wondering.

From a related article: (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236294)

Aside from ionosphere disturbances, nature has a number of ways that signify an earthquake's arrival far earlier than an iPhone can.

Not if the iPhone is tied into the toad network.

Re:From a related article: (2)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236648)

But the iPhone-toad network interface cable is terribly expensive.

Re:From a related article: (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38241520)

You can make your own for cheap, you just need to hook up a few resistors in the right places to fool the iPhone into thinking it's an official Apple iToad cable.

And I thought (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#38236400)

That the scientific consensus was that animals did not know anything special and all the reports of precognition of devastating events were miss-rememberences or random chance.

Re:And I thought (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249430)

That is the scientific consensus.

However, if you RTFA, and particularly RTFPaper, you'll see that the authors have proposed a causal mechanism for these anecdotes. Which renders it more amenable to test. Unfortunately, the long record of poor and failed animal-prediction ideas bodes poorly for their predictive power.

What could possibly go wrong? (1)

munozdj (1787326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38237530)

His last name is Freund, after all.

Why Didn't She Just Ask The Toads? (2)

Toad-san (64810) | more than 2 years ago | (#38238506)

Unless she didn't speak Italian, of course.

"Stiamo ottenendo l'inferno fuori di Dodge, signora! Alcuni merda brutto accadrà presto!"

Is that so hard to understand?

This New Learning Amazes Me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38238546)

This new learning amazes me Sir Bedivere! Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.

Causality? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38240496)

Didn't they get suspicious about quakes striking just after massive toad relocations? All those amphibians moving should have quite an effect on the earth, right? They should at least study possible causality there. In the mean time, just to be sure, perhaps we should exterminate them.

Micro video implants (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38242640)

then place them strategically in the 20-50 HAARP facilities around the world. That might work in telling the world ~exactly when we can expect the earthquakes. Wake up everybody..

Reminds me of The Holy Grail... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38271438)

"Explain again how sheep's bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes." -King Arthur

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