Can you predict earthquakes, the answer is 'no' : The Tribune India

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Can you predict earthquakes, the answer is 'no'

Amid string of predictions and debate since the deadly Turkey earthquakes, USGS says ‘no scientist has ever predicted a major earthquake’, says USGS

Can you predict earthquakes, the answer is 'no'

Notably, Turkey happens to be located in one of the most seismically active zones on the planet and was prone to an earthquake of severe intensity, according to experts.



Tribune Web Desk

Vibha Sharma

Chandigarh, February 22

Ever since the deadly earthquakes in Turkey there has been a string of predictions, along with the debate around whether such events can be predicted.

Notably, Turkey happens to be located in one of the most seismically active zones on the planet and was prone to an earthquake of severe intensity, according to experts.

Turkey, India and seismicity

As far as India is concerned, the experts say that the subcontinent, too, is sitting on the highly seismic Indian plate, with some major fault lines.

In fact, there is no seismically safe zone in India.

There have been several minor/moderate quakes in the Indian continent region, the last devastating episode being the two back to back shockers measuring 7.8 and 7.3 on the Richter followed by several high-intensity ones in Nepal in April 2015.

The Indian plate is one of the 12 major plates locked together to the surface of the earth like a jigsaw puzzle. Its boundary has become very active and is gradually moving, pushing against the Eurasian plate by 4 to 5 cm every year.

On Tuesday, a leading weather scientist and geological expert warned that the “Indian tectonic plate is moving about 5 cm every year, leading to accumulation of stress along the Himalayas and increasing the possibility of major seismic events in the coming days”.

“We have a strong network of 18 seismograph stations in Uttarakhand. The region, referred to as the seismic gap between Himachal and the western part of Nepal, including Uttarakhand, is prone to earthquakes that might occur any time”, Dr N Purnachandra Rao, the chief scientist and seismologist at the Hyderabad-based National Geophysical Research Institute was quoted as saying by the ANI

Can earthquakes be predicted?

According to the United States Geological Survey, the scientific agency of the United States government, “Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake”

“We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. USGS scientists can only calculate the probability that a significant earthquake will occur (shown on our hazard mapping in a specific area within a certain number of years,” the USGS website states.

An earthquake prediction must define three elements—the date and time, the location, and the magnitude—it adds.

Earthquake prediction by non-scientists

So as predictions by “non- scientists” are concerned, the USGS states that “yes, some people say they can predict earthquakes, but they are not based on scientific evidence, and earthquakes are part of a scientific process.”

In other words, “earthquakes have nothing to do with clouds, bodily aches and pains, or slugs. They do not define all three of the elements required for a prediction”

The fact is predictions by non-scientists, astrologers etc normally start circulating on the social media when a major earthquake happens or something happens which is thought to be a precursor to one in the near future

“The so-called precursor is often a swarm of small earthquakes, increasing amounts of radon in local water, unusual behavior of animals, increasing size of magnitudes in moderate size events, or a moderate-magnitude event rare enough to suggest that it might be a foreshock.

“Unfortunately, most such precursors frequently occur without being followed by an earthquake, so a real prediction is not possible. Instead, if there is a scientific basis, a forecast might be made in probabilistic terms,” states the USGS.

Small earthquakes no indication of major one

Incidentally, an earthquake forecast was made in China several decades ago based on small earthquakes and unusual animal activity after which many people chose to sleep outside and were saved when the main earthquake causing widespread destruction occurred.

However, the USGS warns that this type of seismic activity is rarely followed by a large earthquake and, unfortunately, most earthquakes have no precursory events whatsoever.

The bottom line is that the big earthquake in China had no precursors and thousands of people died.

About The Author

The Tribune Web Desk brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune Wed Desk for not just breaking news stories but wide-ranging coverage of events.

#Earthquake #earthquakeprediction #earthquakes #India #Turkey


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