Here’s the real science behind the unreal predictions of major earthquakes in 2018

时间:2018-01-06 单词数:4110

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The University of Montana geophysicist knows you may have read the articles warning about "swarms of devastating earthquakes" that will allegedly rock the planet next year thanks to a slowdown of the Earth’s rotation. And she feels "very awful" if you’ve been alarmed.


Those dire threats are based on Bendick’s research into patterns that might predict earthquakes - but claims of an impending "earthquake boom" are mostly sensationalism.


Here is what the science actually says.There is no way to predict an individual earthquake. Earthquakes occur when potential energy stored along cracks in the planet’s crust gets released, sending seismic waves through the Earth.


Since scientists know where those cracks exist, and how they are likely to convulse, they can develop forecasts of the general threat for an area. But the forces that contribute to this energy buildup and trigger its release are global and complex, and we still cannot sort out exactly how it might unfold.


Bendick and colleagues did find a curious correlation between clusters of certain earthquakes and periodic fluctuations in Earth’s rotation.


By examining the historic earthquake record and monitoring those fluctuations, scientists might be able to forecast years when earthquakes are more likely to occur, they suggest.


But that conclusion is by no means set in stone. It hasn’t been demonstrated in the lab or confirmed by follow-up studies. Several scientists have said they’re not yet convinced by Bendick’s research.


Historically, the field of earthquake forecasting has seen some particularly outlandish claims.


People have tried to predict temblors based on the behaviour of animals, gas emissions from rocks, low-frequency electric signals rippling through the Earth - all without much success.


For that reason, Bendick said, "it’s a little bit scary to get into the game." But getting a prediction right can mean the difference between life and death for countless people. The stakes are too high not to try.


Earth is currently at the end of a slowing period, Bendick pointed out, and the historic record would indicate another "cluster" may be on its way.


But that doesn’t necessarily mean 2018 will be a particularly devastating year. For one thing, the kinds of temblors Bendick analysed happen in areas that are already earthquake-prone - Japan, New Zealand, the west coast of the United States. For people who live in those regions, there is always a risk of a quake, and it is always good to be prepared.