Quake Predictions Haven’t Gone as Predicted

Recent events show there is good reason for earthquake research to be a high priority for governments. Yet the fundamental laws that geophysicists use to predict where and when earthquakes will occur are less than adequate.

In an article on the New Zealand Herald website, Simon Baker says that Christchurch was more vulnerable to a big earthquake than the seismic hazard maps suggested. If the recent quake had happened during business hours rather than early in the morning, “there could have been very significant loss of life,” Baker writes.

The goal of predicting earthquakes is to accurately forecast the time, place and size of a quake, and to allow communities to prepare. But the science is complex and, so far, hasn’t always been worth the investment. The Japanese government, for example, funded a $300 million-a-year program in 1966 but discontinued it after 30 years, declaring it a $160 billion yen waste, says the article.

And yet, science has given us the capability to anticipate many aspects of earthquake behaviour “with enough precision to allow for a risk management approach to planning,” Baker writes. The research must continue as large earthquakes become more hazardous and more costly, particularly in growing urban centres.

To read the New Zealand Herald article, click here: