In 2011 a large earthquake rocked Japan
At magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale it is the largest
earthquake Japan has ever suffered. The earthquake triggered a
tsunami which caused huge devastation on the northeast coast of
Thankfully, earthquakes of such huge magnitude are incredibly
rare. However, predicting earthquakes accurately would save many
Can we predict earthquakes?
Scientists have tried lots of different ways of predicting
earthquakes, but none have been successful. They have a pretty good
idea of where an earthquake is most likely to hit,
but they still can't tell exactly when it will
However, the probability of a future earthquake
can be calculated, based on scientific data. Scientists at the US
Geological Society (USGS) estimate that the probability of a major
earthquake occurring in the San Francisco Bay area over the next 30
years is 67%.
Mike Blanpied works for USGS and
studies earthquake prediction
It's good to know if earthquakes are probable, so that residents
can prepare. It would be better to predict exactly
when earthquakes will occur.
Why can't we predict earthquakes?
So far, scientists haven't been able to find a signal for
earthquakes - there is no obvious sign to say that an earthquake is
coming very soon. Vibrations can be detected just before an
earthquake occurs, but this doesn't give enough time for people to
Seismograph showing vibrations
below the Earth's surface
The processes that cause earthquakes mostly occur far below the
Earth's surface. There are many tectonic plates - sections of the
Earth's crust that rub together and cause earthquakes - and their
interactions are complex. This makes earthquakes very hard to
Will we ever be able to predict
Scientists at USGS and other organisations are working hard to
developing methods which will predict earthquakes. Hopefully,
scientists will eventually find a way to predict earthquakes
precisely, which will save many lives.
To find out more about earthquakes and what causes them, go to:
To hear Mike Blanpied from USGS talk about earthquake
prediction, go to: http://www.usgs.gov/corecast/details.asp?ID=76