Earthquake prediction: It’s not easy

Seismologist Raffaele Bendandi predicted that Rome would be hit by a huge earthquake on 11 May. On 11 May an earthquake occurred near the town of Lorca in southern Spain. Once again proving that earthquake prediction is a tricky task.

The BBC has reported on the situation in Italy where many people decided to stay out of Rome due to the predictions and officials have aired special programmes informing people that earthquakes cannot be predicted and encouraging people to stay calm: Rome braces for ‘prophet-predicted’ earthquake 

On 11 May a 5.3 magnitude earthquake occurred around 120km south-west of Alicante at a depth of about 10km at 1650 GMT. Current reports indicate around 10 people have died while thousands in the town of Lorca remain outdoors in fear of severe aftershocks.

A reporter narrowly escapes falling debris:

It has been deemed Spain’s worst earthquake for 50 years. These events are starting to raise many questions about earthquake prediction.

Charles Richter (who the Richter magnitude scale is named after) once remarked that “only fools, charlatans, and liars predict earthquakes.”

Consistent successful prediction of the location, magnitude and timing of earthquakes still seems to elude scientists, however with advances in monitoring earthquakes, maps have been produced of areas at risk. Seismic risk maps draw attention to areas which are likely to suffer from future earthquakes, along with the potential magnitude. By spatially plotting historical statistical data, a visual representation can be created that can then be analysed to find areas of high seismic activity.

There are many theories and ideas surrounding earthquake prediction. I will hopefully try and cover a few of these in some posts in the near future.

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