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NASA Scientists Explore Earthquake Prediction System

June 06, 2008 06:03 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Scientists say they’ve found potential atmospheric predictors of earthquakes. Now, NASA and U.K. researchers are investigating a space-based earthquake warning system.

30-Second Summary

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Electrical disturbances in the earth’s atmosphere could be used to predict earthquakes.

After studying more than 100 earthquakes that struck Taiwan over several decades, researchers concluded that nearly all of those up to about 35 kilometers deep were preceded by electrical changes in the atmosphere.

More recently, the scientists say they detected such disturbances days before a major earthquake hit China.

NASA and U.K.-based scientists are working together to investigate the possibility of a satellite-based earthquake warning system.

Although some experts strongly question whether the atmosphere can really foreshadow an earthquake, those who believe there’s some legitimacy to the theory say it requires more research.

Short-term earthquake prediction is generally difficult at best, says seismologist Lucile Jones. Scientists can usually predict where a quake may occur, but when it will happen and how severe it will be are harder to estimate. Long-term prediction is simpler because scientists can review historic information about an area.

Regardless of how difficult earthquake prediction has been over the years, scientists contend that any type of earthquake warning could save thousands of lives.

Headline Link: Looking for earthquake clues

Opinion & Analysis: Earthquake prediction

Related Topics: Assessing China's earthquake response

Reference: What cause earthquakes?

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