News / Asia

    Scientists Exploring Quake Warning Signals

    Scientists Exploring Quake Warning Signals
    Scientists Exploring Quake Warning Signals

    Seismologists and other scientists at eight universities in Japan are collaborating with a team of American and Russian researchers to try to devise a reliable system for predicting destructive earthquakes.  This comes after the release of preliminary research following the March 11th earthquake in Japan indicating changes were detected in the atmosphere in the days before and after the destructive tremor.  

    When a potentially destructive earthquake strikes, the Japanese sometimes are able to receive a warning - although usually just a few seconds before the ground starts shaking.

    These warnings are broadcast on radio and television and sent to mobile phones and computers. This automated alarm is triggered by the initial elastic P-wave of a  tremor, which immediately precedes the slower but more destructive secondary wave, which then shakes the ground back and forth perpendicular to the direction it is moving.

    Researchers around the world have been seeking a way to reliably give indications of quakes hours or days before they occur.

    Some scientists are now cautiously optimistic about one theory, which they are attempting to turn into a practical warning system.

    An international project exploring this path was hastily formed following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan three months ago.  The multinational team, composed of researchers in Japan, the United States and Russia, is using satellites and other equipment to observe infrared emissions and electron activity in the atmosphere.

    Interest in these phenomena grew after an analysis of atmospheric data recorded in March, above the Japanese quake’s epicenter, showing unusual changes.

    Earth sciences professor Dimitar Ouzounov of Champan University (in California) is one of the scientists who analyzed the March data.  He says the research still has “a long way to go” before it can be deemed to be a reliable indicator to signal earthquakes, but, if the theory is proven, the potential ramifications are obvious.

    "We see as an opportunity here is that this kind of science development can produce early warnings a few days in advance," said Ouzounov. "That will have a tremendous softening impact and really can help people to survive."

    For the past 20 years, scientists have speculated about a link between seismic activity and changes in the atmosphere and ionosphere.

    In recent years, researchers - thanks to technological advances - have found such interesting correlations for earthquakes with magnitudes larger than 5.5 on the Richter scale and at depths of less than 50 kilometers.

    Professor Ouzounov, who also is affiliated with the U.S. Goddard Space Flight Center, says among the killer tremors where these links were seen include Sichuan, China in 2008, the quake in Italy the following year and last year’s magnitude 7.0 in Haiti.

    "We did it [for] about 100 earthquakes in Japan and Taiwan and the most powerful with the biggest magnitudes, of course," he said. "We have seen for all earthquakes, similar signals.  This process which probably exists for all kinds of earthquakes, but the most dangerous ones, the biggest ones, are more easier to detect."

    The atmospheric changes before an earthquake are believed to be triggered by the release of radon gas - which is colorless and odorless - below the surface that then ionizes and heats the surrounding air.

    Some other scientists remain unconvinced.  They note changes in infrared emissions and electron numbers in the upper layers of the atmosphere can be affected by cloud cover and activity from the sun. But proponents of the theory contend these other influences can be properly separated to show when they are being caused by the venting of gas from underground.

    Researchers say they will be focusing the next phase of their study on Asia, because that is where most of the world’s worst earthquakes occur.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    US, Allies Discuss Next Steps in Islamic State Fight

    Meeting comes a day after US Navy SEAL was killed while fighting Islamic State forces in northern Iraq

    In China, Traditional Banks Fight Challenge From Internet Firms

    Internet companies lent more than $150 billion to customers in 2015, which is an extremely small amount compared to the much larger lending by commercial banks last year

    Trump Faces Tough Presidential Odds Against Clinton

    Numerous national election surveys show former secretary of state defeating presumptive Republican nominee with tough talk to halt illegal immigration and temporarily block Muslims from entering country

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora