Can Earthquakes Be Predicted?


Quick Answer

There are no reliable methods for predicting when and where earthquakes happen. The reason there is no such method is the lack of observable, unambiguous and reliable precursors of earthquakes.

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Full Answer

The prediction methods for earthquakes are probabilistic. Many earthquakes happen along fault systems. In these systems, the likelihood of earthquakes depends on the strain on different parts of the fault. This means scientists attribute a lower or higher probability to the occurrence of an earthquake based on two factors: the history of large earthquakes in the same area and the rate at which strain accumulates in the rock.

If several earthquakes happen within a short period of time, the likelihood of a future earthquake increases. On the other hand, scientists measure the strain of the rocks in a fault to find out the probability of a future earthquake. However, detailed information about the strain of many faults is scarce.

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