Earthquake Prediction 101 Primer

Present day earthquake prediction efforts might seem as though turning a page from the American West of the past as it seems for every predictor who tries they become a target from more than one source, yet much that brings less than acceptable purview is brought on by the predictors themselves for failing to attend to the very heart of the essential rules about issuing earthquake predictions and through this primer I hope to clarify the essentials of Earthquake Prediction 101 with the hope it will make it clear to predictors why they need to become nitpickers for details and for the public that consumes them an understanding that sometimes all that glitters is not gold.

Writing the Prediction:

Each and every earthquake prediction must include:

The location where an earthquake event is expected

The period of time, known as a window, as to when the quake is to occur.

A defined magnitude for such an event.

Step One - The Location

The prediction location needs to be defined in terms to which an average person in the public can understand where that event is expected.  For those who can, assigning a latitude and longitude with a radius by miles or kilometers is the usual accepted practice. And given the goal of predicting earthquakes is to only warn those in the affected area, it needs to be reduced the smallest possible planetary space. 

Step Two - The Window

While setting a time frame for an occurrence may seem simple, there is one hard and fast rule in this matter in that no prediction can be issued for a period before it meets the eye of the public, or is received by a disinterested authoritative source, such as a scientist or a media source which is willing to authenticate the prediction.

Step Three - The Magnitude

Magnitudes may be assigned in several ways and each predictor has a method which is selected by them. Examples might be M 4.0 - M 5.5 which is known as a “closed window.” Or, it can be stated as M 4.0> or greater which leaves the end open with an unstated figure, yet the magnitude assigned needs to correlate with the ability of the fault in question which is expected to deliver an earthquake has the capability of producing a quake equivalent to the magnitude assigned. In other words, if someone issues a prediction for an M 9.0 quake, the dynamics, which make that possible, must be present. Thus research should be performed to ascertain if that fault has such capabilities.

Step Four

Once a prediction has been issued, no changes may be made to alter it.   

Step Five - The Outcome

All science facilities that offer outcomes for earthquakes always offer a preliminary automatically generated estimate as to the magnitude and thus what appears on daily earthquake listings is “not” the final outcome. That will arrive later when the quake is reviewed prior to being placed in earthquake catalogs. Yet they are open for review and are normally reviewed many times and adjusted for location, depth and magnitudes thus it’s not set in stone. Often later research reveals the data is incorrect and thus it may be adjusted a decade or more later.

Therefore if a predictor issued a prediction for a minimum M 4.9 event and it appears on the preliminary earthquake listings as an M 5.0, it might be thought the predictor was successful, yet after review it may be deemed a M 4.7 or M 4.8 and thus it will be entered into the earthquake catalog and the prediction will be deemed a failure. All predictions and prediction programs which are appraised by prediction evaluators or anyone who uses earthquake catalog data to confirm earthquake outcomes understands when the catalog data is accessed that is the final outcome, not the preliminary report.

Frivolous Prediction Issuance Notes

At no time do any additional notes about predictions such as “special dates” or a side note about such as “well, fairly close to there” influence the prediction itself. 

The Public Trust

As global citizens look in on predictions it is the duty of the predictors to conduct their prediction efforts in favor the public trust and in that it’s best to inform the public as to the reason a prediction is being issued, be it by a certain type of equipment with the known limitations of such equipment, a computer generated program, a prediction method which is defined and available for the public to read or some others means such an biosensitivity to earthquakes (with or without a defined method) and so forth.

Amateur predictors should make it known at the time of their prediction issuances they are offering experimental predictions and that they are not guaranteed to occur, thus offering the public an understanding it is a work in progress and a test of a method being employed, thus not leading the public to believe it is a proven method and the likelihood of such an occurrence is not actually known, but if a percentage of occurrence is assigned it should only be elevated above 50% if there is a valid reason to do so.

Prediction Equipment

In the State of California, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) offers on-line information for all of their equipment data collection sources, so while a predictor may wish to make use of it when issuing predictions given they do not have direct access to understanding if the equipment is in proper working order, it is essential they check with the scientist who maintains it to confirm the readings are correct. Yet, prior to doing so they should spend some time with scientists who use and maintain it to fully understand exactly what the data may be revealing.

Outside of the United States no earthquake data service providers offer on-line data to the public and thus if it is stated by someone that they are making use of such equipment the links to the data should be provided for the prediction consumer to review.

It is well known by most who have taken a serious interest in earthquake prediction that “no single instrument” can tell anyone where an earthquake is going to occur. Equipment which records geomagnetic activity or AM radios, as examples do not have directional capabilities and it requires “no less than” three units to create a triangulation to ascertain where a precursory signal may be generated. Thus it explains why we need multiple PBO stations and why Quake Finders has a long line of equipment sites as one is not sufficient.

Prediction Methods

There are a number of methods being employed by both scientists and amateurs and some have proven more successful than others, though no single method has been known to be the silver bullet. Dr. Keilis Borok worked on a method for many years which he coined “The Tail that Wags the Dog” in looking for a chain of smaller earthquakes (being the tail) that would eventually wag the dog. NASA in collaboration with DEMETER issues predictions for M 7.0 or greater events by the use of a single satellite which detects signals days ahead of time. Jim Berkland employs his Syzygy Method with employs the use of tidal and lunar data. Jack Coles it is said listens to white noise on his AM radio to ascertain where quakes may occur, yet he has but one unit that has no ability to determine where a signal may be arriving from. Dr. Lowell Whiteside employs multiple methods of issuing earthquake forecasts and they are by means of a patented prediction program, long distance triggering via his P103 Theory, solar activity, hurricane and cyclone events and more. Don Eck issues predictions via testing a method which cannot be revealed to the public as it’s not his own. Shan in India uses a method of sunlight falling on an exterior wall of his home and my general understanding is that it works as a elaborate global tilt meter. Dr. Shou of California issues predictions by observations of cloud formations seen in satellite photographs while Dr. Boyko Iliev of Bulgaria uses a computer program using earthquake catalog data. And as for yours truly, I employ some of Lowell Whiteside’s methods in noting solar activity, P103 long distance triggering along with my own version of regional triggering, earthquake histories and biosensitivity to earthquakes using our defined Earth Sounds prediction program. There are other predictors which I have not named as I’m not fully familiar with their programs.

What is Useful Earthquake Prediction?

In order for anyone who reads a prediction to feel a need to be concerned and prepare for such an event it must be clear to them that they are within a small zone where such an event may occur or they will not act on such information. Thus for the citizens who live in Indonesia as an example, they need to know which part of Indonesia is expected to experience an earthquake because Indonesia itself encompasses 13 million square miles. And for we who live in or along the West Coast of America if a person issues a prediction for the entirety of this area absolutely no one will prepare as they have no reason to believe a person living in Seattle has any greater chance of experiencing an earthquake than someone who resides in Los Angeles and it also makes it abundantly clear the predictor lacks adequate skills and/or their equipment is inadequate to afford them the opportunity to issue useful earthquake predictions.

The Clear Divide

There are decidedly two camps in earthquake prediction; the first has an actual determined desire to perfect their method and offer useful warnings. Normally they have performed years of research toward this engagement and they do not wish to offer frivolous warnings to the public. The second camp is clearly playing a game and to that end they do not care about the public trust or worrying anyone unnecessarily.

At present I’d like you to digest these words, “I only wish to save lives.”  No one can save anyone if they do not employ adequate skills toward defining a precise and small area where an earthquake may occur and establishes a set pattern of prediction which more often than not brings positive results. A predictor also must establish that they can predict earthquakes correctly and they must have a personal reputation which is beyond reproach because in prediction, integrity and trust are absolute essentials to be qualified to gain the public’s trust. 



Make a Free Website with Yola.