Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Can You Predict Earthquakes? Well, Sort Of

Followers of the CAT-Law Navigator know that our blog posts often address recent earthquakes around the world. As catastrophes go, a massive earthquake is about as bad as it gets so it’s a natural topic for us. And if earthquakes are of interest to you, we recommend you check out Temblor. Temblor refers to itself as “a tech company providing a personal, immediate and credible source of seismic risk understanding and solutions for everyone.” We find Temblor to be a great source of information on earthquakes and earthquake-related news and analysis.

With all of the work the folks at Temblor and others are doing to better understand earthquakes and seismic risks worldwide, can we now predict earthquakes like meteorologists predict storms? Unfortunately, no, but Temblor’s website does reflect a few interesting “predictions” related to earthquake activity. First, you can use the website to find all earthquakes worldwide in the last 30 days, or 7 days, or 24 hours. And you can tailor your search based on the magnitude you are interested in (greater than 5.0, greater than 6.0 or greater than 7.0). And guess what? In the last 24 hours alone, there have been seven earthquakes at or above a magnitude 5.0 (four of which were in Central Italy – and Temblor has closely followed the uptick in seismic activity in that region of late). So while we can’t predict or forecast the next earthquake, it is apparent from Temblor’s data that quakes are happening every day.

You can also use your location on the Temblor site and review your current seismic risk on a scale of 1 to 100, and get a sense of the likely magnitude of property damage to your home in the next 30 years. Temblor even tries to forecast the likelihood of you receiving an insurance payout after an earthquake(!). But as Temblor notes, “we are not” predicting earthquakes; instead, Temblor is forecasting your risk “based on the long term behavior of faults, using the best public scientific data available.”

Temblor does, however, identify one type of earthquake that absolutely, positively CAN be predicted. On certain Sundays in September, October, November, December, and sometimes January, there will be small magnitude earthquakes in Seattle. How does Temblor know this? It all started on January 8, 2011, when Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch electrified a stadium full of Seattle Seahawks football fans with a powerful 67-yard touchdown run. As Temblor describes it, “the combination of fans jumping, stands reverberating, and ground vibrating was enough to set off a local seismometer, which registered the shaking as a M=2 earthquake. While not substantial, this truly was a man-made earthquake.” In the years since that wild run by Lynch, seismometers have been installed in and around the stadium to track the seismic activity on game days. And when the Seahawks are rolling, you can predict with absolute certainty that there will be a (very small) earthquake.

Posted by Dan Millea