Thursday, 30 April 2015

It is possible to forecast earthquakes

It is possible to forecast earthquakes

I must at the outset admit that I am only a writer, I am no geologist but I have a very deep interest in seismology and earthquakes. I have studied earthquakes and to some extent cyclones with obsessive fascination. I wish to share my observations and hope that geologists and seismologists will be able to work on what I suppose to be a vague theory.

Big magnitude earthquakes occur either in the early hours of or atleast before noon on the 26th of the month or atleast around the 26th of the month. 11th and 26th of the months seem to be favourites for release of seismic energy / rupture on fault lines). A startling realisation that the Bam earthquake (26.12.2003, Iran), Bhuj earthquake (26.01.2001, Bhuj, Gujarat) and the Andaman Sumatra Earthquake (26.12.2004, Sumatra) occurred in the wee hours or atleast before noon led me to the historical database of earthquakes on USGS; It became apparent that the Bio-Bio earthquake occurred on 27th of February 2010, the Good Friday Great Alaska Sound Earthquake happened on 28th March 1964, and so on…

The 60 years geological cycle also needs to be studied with seriousness after the Asian Tsunami of December 2004. 62 years before that a similar destructive tsunami following a mega earthquake had smashed Indonesia and Andaman Nicobar Islands… in 1942. And approximately 60 years before that another great seismic event occurred… the cataclysmic eruption of the Krakatau volcano in Indonesia led to violent tsunamis in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and resulted in short term climate change. Similarly the Chile earthquake of 27th February 2010 – that is - the Bio-Bio earthquake - occurred almost 60 years after the devastating M 9.5 earthquake of May 22nd 1960. So will the Alaskan Mega Earthquake of March 27 1964 with a magnitude of 9.2 repeat its scale of destruction in 2024? It doesn’t hurt to be prepared right? 

Similarly the 11th of any month is also a favourite for release of seismic energy. M 7, M 6 earthquakes have occurred on or around the 26th of the month. The following data has been sourced from USGS’s historical earthquake database.

·         26 December 1939 Turkey (M.7.8),
·         26th November 1942 Turkey (M 7.1)
·         26.May 1957 Turkey (M 7.1)
·         26th April 1959 (Taiwan region (M 7.5)
·         26th January 2001 Bhuj Earthquake (M 7.6)
·         26th May 2003 - Seven Trees, California - M 3.8,
·         26th May 2003 Halmahera Indonesia ( M 7.0),
·         26th May 2003 Muir Beach California (M.3.8),
·         26th December 2003 Bam Earthquake (M 6.6),
·         26th December 2004 Sumatran Mega Earthquake (M 9.1),
·         26 February 2005 Simeulue Indonesia (M 6.8),
·         26. September 2005 Peru (M 7.5)
·         26th May 2006 Java Indonesia (M 6.3)
·         26th December 2006 - Taiwan region - M 6.9, 
·         26th December 2006 - Taiwan region - M 7.1,
·         26th July 2007 Molucca Sea (M 6.9)
·         26th September 2007 Papua New Guinea, (M 6.8)
·         26th December 2007 Alaskan Earthquake, (M6.4)
·         26th April 2008 Nevada USA (M 5.0)
·         27th February 2010 Bio-Bio Chile (M 8.8)

I have calibrated the following data from Google Earth / Digital Globe
·         28.09.1998 Java Indonesia (M 6.6)
·         12th September 2007 Southern Sumatra ( M 8.5)
·         13th February 2001 Southern Sumatra ( M 7.4)
·         14th August 1999 Southern Sumatra (M 6.4)
·         12th December 1992, Flores, Indonesia (M 7.5)
·         26th January 2006 Banda Sea (M 7.6)

It does not mean earthquakes do not strike on other days. Neither does it mean that smaller magnitude earthquakes do not occur on 11th or 26th of the months or around these days. They do. But the likelihood of big earthquakes striking on or around the 11th and 26th of the months is higher… going by the database of earthquakes.

In today’s advanced technological era it should be possible for seismologists and geologists to measure the build-up of seismic pressure in fault zones regularly. Monitoring the build-up of seismic pressure should be – logically speaking – able to pint the likely rupture points or the epicentre, and the likely date of rupture. Given that the dates are presupposed to be either 11th or 26th of a month if vigorous monitoring is undertaken it should be possible to calibrate a potential rupture zone and an educated guestimate of the magnitude of an earthquake.

Of course there are other pointers too.  Volcanic eruptions are preceded by a series of seismic tremors as we learnt in Iceland last year before the Bardarbunga volcano exploded in August 2014. Other observers like Dr. Arunachalam Kumar theorise that mass strandings of cetaceans on continental shelves are a sure and ominous sign of an imminent earth
Source: GVP / Digital Globe / Smithsonian Institutions
quake.  There are documentation available that animal behaviour can be an early warning – a theory that has very recently gained scientists’ acquiescence. Oceanographers are researching about the change in ions above the oceans before a tsunamigenic earthquake is likely to strike.

Oceanographers in India’s INCOIS have succeeded in calibrating the estimated wave heights, time of arrival and path of a tsunami for earthquakes around the Indian coasts. They have done this by calibrating the latitude-longitude against the bathymetric profile of the seas around India. With such advances made all that is needed is political will to back the scientists. By utilising scientific applications, human development can be assured for it mitigates disaster risk… the kind less resilient communities like in Nepal or coastal fishers are ideal candidates for …

Critique, feedback and discussions welcome.
Thank you.  

Malini Shankar



    Statistically speaking, these generalizations aren't precise enough to be useful...

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