Associated Press

New Tools Could Lead to Earlier Earthquake Warnings

July 11, 2008 09:44 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Seismologists say that ultrasensitive new instruments that measure changes in rock could allow them to detect earthquakes hours in advance.

30-Second Summary

U.S. scientists were able to detect subtle, “stress-induced changes” in rocks up to 10 hours before two small earthquakes in California’s San Andreas Fault, the BBC reports.

In a study that the science journal Nature is calling a significant advance in earthquake prediction methods, sensors were lowered into holes drilled in the quake zone to make the observations.

The team says that the findings have raised the possibility that earthquake forecasts may become routine in the future.

“If you had 10 hours’ warning, from a practical point of view, you could evacuate populations, you could certainly get people out of buildings, you could get the fire department ready,” coauthor Paul Silver of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington told the BBC. “Hurricane [warnings] give you an idea of what could be done.”

Despite improvements in measurement methods, measuring changes in the Earth’s crust that could indicate oncoming earthquakes has remained difficult, The Telegraph explains.

But this is 2008’s second major breakthrough in earthquake prediction. Earlier this year, some scientists theorized that electrical changes in the Earth’s atmosphere preceded many earthquakes, and a team of NASA and U.K. researchers were looking into developing a space-based earthquake warning system.

Headline Link: ‘Pre-quake changes seen in rocks’

Background: ‘NASA Scientists Explore Earthquake Prediction System’

Related Topics: Earthquakes in China, the Midwest

Reference: Study published in Nature; Earth science guide


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