May 29, 2023

Many media reports attributed to scientists that they predicted the earthquake in Turkey before it occurred, but major scientific bodies around the world still deny this possibility, so why have scientists failed so far to predict earthquakes and warn of their occurrence, as they do with hurricanes and even volcanoes? Are scientists close to predicting earthquakes?

Scientists in many countries of the world are under pressure to find a way to predict when and where earthquakes will occur.

Sentence to Italian scientists who played down the possibility of an earthquake!

Six Italian scientists and a government official have previously been sentenced to six years in prison for statements they made before the 2009 earthquake, which killed 309 in the city of L’Aquila, because, according to prosecutors, they underestimated the risk of a major earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, after a series of tremors. that rocked the city in early 2009.

However, on April 6, 2009, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the city, killing 309 people.

One of the scientists admitted in the trial that he had already said during the meeting for which they were prosecuted that there was no certainty that an earthquake would occur, and that a major earthquake was “unlikely”, but added that the possibility could not be ruled out. However, at a press conference after the meeting, an official from Italy’s Ministry of Civil Protection, Bernardo De Bernardinis, who was also a defendant, told the public that “there is no danger”.

This crisis shows the difference between the uncertainty of scholars at times, and the need of politicians for a concrete matter in order to act on its basis.

This trial, and now the tragedy in Turkey, underlined the public expectation of scientists to search for ways to detect early warning signs of these unpredictable natural disasters.

In fact, the science of earthquake prediction is very difficult. While there are often subtle signals to detect in seismic data after an event has occurred, knowing what to look for and using it to make advance predictions is much more difficult.

Why did scientists fail to predict earthquakes?

“When we simulate earthquakes in the lab, we can detect ground faults and faults and fissures, but in nature there is a lot of uncertainty about why we often don’t see earthquakes,” says Chris Maron, a professor of earth sciences at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, and Penn State. Or indications of a major earthquake.

Geologists have been trying to use modern scientific methods to predict earthquakes since at least the 1960s, with little success.

A big part of the reason for this, says Maroun, is the complexity of the fault systems that permeate the world, which cause earthquakes. There is also a lot of seismic noise in the ground and the noise of human traffic, construction work and daily life makes it difficult to pick up clear signals.

According to the United States Geological Survey, it takes 3 things to produce a truly useful earthquake prediction – where it will happen, when it will happen, and how big the event will be. Yet, they say, no one can do that with any certainty.

Instead, geologists produce their best guesses in “risk maps,” where they calculate the probability of an earthquake occurring over a multi-year time frame. While these can assist with some degree of planning, such as improving building standards in high-risk areas, they do not provide the level of forecasting required to provide early warnings to the public to allow them to evacuate or take cover. Not everyone living in an earthquake zone can afford the infrastructure needed to withstand large amounts of vibration.

So, scientists have been looking instead for ways to make earthquake predictions more accurate.

They tried to monitor the behavior of animals and the atmosphere, and now they turned to artificial intelligence

Besides seismic signals, the researchers looked for clues in a variety of places – from animal behavior to electrical disturbances in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Recently, there has been growing excitement about the capabilities of artificial intelligence to detect the kind of subtle signals that humans miss. Machine learning algorithms can analyze huge amounts of data from past earthquakes to look for patterns that can be used to predict future events.

Maroun says: When earthquake prediction experiments were transferred from the laboratories by artificial intelligence to the real world, it turned out to be much more difficult, according to the “BBC” report.

Scientists in China, for example, were looking for ripples in electrically charged particles in the Earth’s ionosphere in the days before earthquakes caused by changes in the magnetic field over fault zones. One group led by Jing Liu at the Institute of Earthquake Prediction in Beijing, for example, said it could see disturbances in atmospheric electrons over the epicenter of the quake that struck the US-neighboring Mexican state of Baja, California, 10 days before it hit in early April. April 2010.

In 2018, China launched a satellite to monitor electrical anomalies in Earth’s ionosphere. Last year, scientists at the China Earthquake Network Center in Beijing claimed to have found a drop in electron density in the ionosphere up to 15 days before the earthquakes that hit mainland China in May 2021 and January 2022.

earthquake prediction
A destroyed building in northern Syria due to the earthquake/Reuters

But the mechanism for this is still controversial, says Mei Li, a researcher with the China Earthquake Network Center. She warns that even with satellite data, their results are still far from being able to predict an imminent earthquake.

“We cannot pinpoint the exact location where the next earthquake will occur,” the researchers say in a paper about their findings. Lee also points to another complication – large earthquakes can trigger changes in the ionosphere far from the epicenter, making it difficult to confirm the exact location.

In Japan, some claim to be able to use changes in water vapor over earthquake zones to make predictions. Tests say these predictions have an accuracy of 70 percent, though they can only say that an earthquake might happen sometime in the next month. Others are trying to use subtle ripples in Earth’s gravity that can occur before an earthquake.

But despite all these claims, none of them have been able to successfully predict where and when an earthquake will occur before it happens.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to do the kind of monitoring that we need,” Moron says. We know how to predict laboratory earthquakes, but what we don’t know is whether this expertise can truly be transferred to real-world complexity.

The East Anatolian Fault, for example, is located in a complex region of the world — not one simple fault level, but a combination of things coming together.”

Are tremors that precede large earthquakes usually reliable?

Some research shows that earthquakes can precede a larger earthquake.

Many countries are now setting up warning systems to harness modern electronic communications to detect tremors and send alerts before the ground shakes, buying a few precious minutes to seek shelter.

But they are hard to distinguish from the hundreds of smaller earthquakes that occur on a regular basis.

Predicting earthquakes will require highly accurate measurements deep underground over decades, if not longer, and complex simulations. Even then, it is unlikely to result in an hour’s notice of the earthquake.

Even with the ability to make better forecasts, there is still a question of what to do with the information. Until accuracy improves, it might be evacuating entire cities or asking people to stay away from buildings at risk, which would be costly in the absence of an earthquake.

Geologists look enviously at their forecasting counterparts, looking for some indication of what might happen if the data improved.

“They’re already predicting big weather events with some accuracy in advance,” says Maroun. This allows government agencies to prepare emergency responses to events such as tornadoes, and to issue warnings to members of the public that can help keep them safe. The ability to do something similar to earthquakes is still a long way off, Maron says: “We’re not anywhere near that right now.”

Researchers at a British university say they have developed a more accurate model for predicting earthquakes

But a report by the British Daily Mail says that a new model prepared by a group of scientists claims to predict when and where the next earthquake might strike.

Northwestern University researchers have published a study that could help solve one of the main challenges of seismology – predicting when the next big earthquake will strike on a fault.

This comes just days after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria.

Seismologists traditionally believed that large fault earthquakes follow a regular pattern and occur after the same period of time between previous ones. However, the new study says that the Earth does not always comply, as earthquakes can sometimes occur sooner or later than expected. Until now, seismologists had lacked a way to explain the unpredictability.

The model takes into account the specific order and timing of past earthquakes, rather than relying solely on the average time between past earthquakes.

earthquake prediction
The land road connecting the regions of Antakya and Cilvegozu, which is located on a fault line in the Hatay state in southern Turkey / Anatolia

Northwestern’s research team of seismologists and statisticians says it’s a more comprehensive and realistic model of earthquake probability than is currently available, and that it helps explain the puzzling fact that earthquakes sometimes come in clusters — clusters of relatively short durations, separated by longer times than without earthquakes. .

The team found that the faults or faults in the ground that trigger earthquakes have a “long-term memory”; Which means that the absence of a large earthquake in an area, especially if it is in the earthquake belt, means that the suppression accumulates over time, and it may explode in the form of a large earthquake.

But the scientists also cautioned that sometimes an earthquake does not release all of the stress that builds up on the fault over time. The researchers explained that the stress left on the fault can cause another earthquake after the big earthquake.

However, it was previously assumed that large fault earthquakes are relatively regular, and that the next earthquake will occur at about the same time as the previous two.

For example, although large earthquakes occur in the Mojave section of California’s San Andreas fault on average every 135 years, the last occurred in 1857, only 45 years later in 1812. Although this was not expected Using the traditional model, the new model shows that because the 1812 earthquake occurred after a 304-year gap since the previous earthquake in 1508, the gap caused some of the energy to remain pent up which led to a faster-than-average earthquake in 1857.

This theory contradicts what seismologists have traditionally assumed that large earthquakes at faults are relatively regular, and that the next earthquake will occur after about the same amount of time as the previous two.

The team’s research focused on investigating plate boundary processes and deformation within the lithosphere using a range of techniques, including seismology, space geodesy (measuring the geometry, gravity, and spatial orientation of Earth and other astronomical objects, such as planets), and marine geophysics.

Study co-author James S. Neely: “Big earthquakes don’t happen like clockwork.”

Sometimes we see several large earthquakes occurring over relatively short time frames and then long periods when nothing happens.

The researchers hope their new model will be a useful tool for seismologists. They are working to improve earthquake prediction, and better prepare for future seismic events such as the disaster in Turkey and Syria.

Application on Turkey and Syria earthquake

The eastern Anatolian rift led to devastating earthquakes over the centuries. The city of Antakya, which is located in the same region in the year 115 AD, witnessed the third largest earthquake in history in terms of the number of deaths throughout history. About 260,000 people died in the earthquake, which measured 7.5 on the Richter scale, according to a report by Our World Data.

In 1822, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the region, killing an estimated 20,000 people.

But during the 20th century, the East Anatolian Rift led to very little seismic activity, Roger Mousso, associate researcher emeritus at the Geological Survey, told Reuters.

Only three earthquakes above 6.0 on the Richter scale have been recorded since 1970 in the region, according to the USGS.

But deep in the Earth, a lot was going on. The plates in the tectonic plate system are moving all the time at a constant rate, not just when there’s an earthquake.

And the inner part of the Anatolian plate is moving westward at a rate of 22 mm per year, as imaged by satellites, according to the Science Media Center, according to a number of scientists.

It seems that in the recent earthquakes of Turkey and Syria, about two centuries of accumulated slippage without a major earthquake released the pent-up energy throughout that period, causing wide waves and strong ground motion; Therefore the Anatolian Plate has moved a significant amount only near its boundary with the East Anatolian Rift. Not all of Turkey moved, according to the site.

The difficult and thorny question remains, did this earthquake release all the pent-up energy, or is there still some of it lurking under the layers of the earth.

The USGS insists that no major earthquake has been predicted and will not be in the foreseeable future.

The US agency says the prediction will require knowledge of the date, time, location and size.

According to the USGS, scientists can only calculate the probability of an earthquake occurring within a certain number of years.

It is clear that the model presented by the British team does not provide an accurate determination of the date of the earthquake, but it revolves around what the US Geological Survey says, which is to improve models for predicting the probability of an earthquake occurring during a certain number of years, which may be less than the previously estimated years. Provides opportunities to provide warnings for evacuation before an earthquake, but provides more accurate advice for earthquake-prone areas in years to improve emergency and construction procedures.

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