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Seismic Data Set Could Improve Earthquake Forecasting 32

sciencehabit writes "Geoscientists still can't predict when a major quake will strike, and many have given up trying. But many do try to issue more general forecasts of hazards and potential damage. This week, researchers added a potentially powerful new tool to their kit: the largest seismic database of its kind ever constructed, based on tens of thousands of earthquake records stretching back more than 1,000 years. Together with a new global map of strain accumulation at plate boundaries, the data sets will form the core of an international public-private partnership intended to reshape the science of earthquake forecasting."
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Seismic Data Set Could Improve Earthquake Forecasting

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  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday June 28, 2013 @06:38PM (#44138259)
    (Especially Italian scientists.)
    • Not funny :) So called Italian Scientists (and town Mayor) didnt try to predict a quake, they went in front of cameras and publicly stated _there wont be any quake, go home and sleep tight_.
      See a difference?

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Friday June 28, 2013 @06:46PM (#44138321)

    It is highly unlikely this will yield a method if any reliability. Natural phenomena are rarely so complicated that some prediction heuristic cannot be established from experience, if such a heuristic is possible. It may still help a lot for longer-term risk evaluation and therefore is entirely desirable. But "there are no silver bullets" applies just as much here as it does in other fields.

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      More data does not mean better. They may be the wrong type of data or the signal may be lost in the noise. Less data focused on the right things could be the best approach. There must be a fundamental understanding of what should be measured first.

    • I've got geophysicists in my workplace that got their degree before plate tectonics was accepted as a theory.
      • Bull.
        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          From wikipedia:

          the theory of plate tectonics, which was defined in a series of papers between 1965 and 1967

          Apparently is wasn't entirely accepted for a few years and then took a few more years after that to make it into the undergraduate course, but either way some of the people that lead groups of geophysicists got their degree in the 1960s and 1970s.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          For example, the book entitled "The New View of the Earth" by Seiya Uyeda, 1978, was an early one on the topic even if the original papers were published a decade earlier.
  • I love big data, especially when it helps people.
  • by thundergeek ( 808819 ) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:08PM (#44138473) Journal
    I wonder what the outcome would be if you made a video showing the quakes in chronological order. Would a pattern emerge? What if you compared that data to historical data of solar cycles? Like the video a guy made of all the nuclear bombs that have been tested/deployed. Or the recording of aircraft across the globe. Patterns are there. Just a thought.
    • What if you compared that data to historical data of solar cycles?

      Comparing big data sets to look for correlations is definitely interesting stuff. The data is already regularly compared to itself to look for patterns, and there don't really seem to be any.

  • Warning Systems (Score:5, Informative)

    by Y-Crate ( 540566 ) on Friday June 28, 2013 @07:19PM (#44138543)

    I think warning systems are one of the best new technologies for dealing with earthquakes.

    The technology is pretty straightforward. You network seismic sensors together and create a system that can detect oncoming (and usually unnoticed) P-waves which have a higher velocity than the destructive S-waves that follow anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds later.

    The distributed nature of the system ensures that any result is the product of multiple sensors producing the same data.

    30 to 90 seconds is a lot of time. You could deploy receivers set accept the existing SAME codes [] and automatically send building systems into "Earthquake Mode" via simple relays. Virtually everything that would need to happen is already part of the programming of each affected system. In a lot of cases, you wouldn't even need to modify them in any significant way as they already accept inputs from external relays.

    Once the alert goes out:

    - Emergency messages are sent to all cell phone users - This system exists and is used for other emergencies.
    - Fire station doors roll-up. - Add a simple sounding device and momentary contact to the existing door-opening circuit and you're done.
    - Earthquake alarms sound in homes and small businesses - Weather radios that accept SAME codes are already programmed to do this.
    - Earthquake alarms sound in major buildings - Fire alarm systems with voice evac are already customized and can accept new initiating devices and announcements with a software update.
    - Emergency generators and fire pumps spin-up. Smoke handling systems activate. Stairwells are pressurized. - See above.
    - Elevators go into "Fire Mode". All cars go to their recall floor, hold the doors open and refuse input. - This programming exists in every elevator installed in the past few decades. Activating a building fire alarm system will trip this anyway.
    - Gas main valves are closed. - This is cheap and simple tech.
    - Halt surgery - Voice evac / weather radios that accept SAME codes.
    - Shut down industrial processes - Some combination of the above.

    • You network seismic sensors together and create a system that can detect oncoming (and usually unnoticed) P-waves which have a higher velocity than the destructive S-waves that follow anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds later.

      Or, you could - you know - simply create a network of sensors that will propagate their measurements at speed of light into all areas of interest. I'm not sure how fast the P-waves are these days but they are most certainly slower than light.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        They go at the speed of sound in the material, for instance very roughly around 6km/4miles per second in granite which sucks if you are in a place that's likely to be shaken, say less than 60 miles from the epicentre. That's not a lot of warning even with light speed.
        I'm not so sure if the ground roll really is so far behind unless the quake is very deep.
    • Warning systems work well for areas far away from the epicenter. The system works based on the principle that seismic waves are far slower than light - ie the information gathered at the epicenter is broadcasted via a network (Internet) to surrounding areas. Destructive seismic waves speed is around 0.5~3 miles per second. The power of the waves decreases with distance. So if the epicenter is right under your feet - the most destructive place it can be - you have zero second notice...
      • Yes, and in the places far away, the warning is of no use. Another earthquake in Japan, doesn't mean much if you live in the UK.
  • I've seen earthquake reports on the media from around the world. Most often, they show some interesting computer generated plots of quake energy, frequency distribution and lots of information that might be useful for the prediction task.

    When we have a quake in the Pacific Northwest (near Seattle), they cut to a scene at the geoscience department of the UW, with a shot of a drum recorder and a leaky ink pen scribbling wavy lines.

  • I see some private entities that would have great interest at pouring money in that kind of projects: insurances, and finance institutions that deal with derivative products from insurance.
  • Scientists have received smite threats from God, who feels this wholesale collecting of data on his earthquakes is an invasion of his heavenly privacy.

Trap full -- please empty.