News / Science & Technology

    Scientist Say They Predicted Earthquake Location, Magnitude

    Andrew Newman, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, performs a GPS survey in Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula in 2010. (Lujia Feng/Georgia Tech).
    Andrew Newman, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, performs a GPS survey in Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula in 2010. (Lujia Feng/Georgia Tech).

    Related Articles

    New Pakistan Island Disappearing

    Island rose from the sea floor about a kilometer from the port town of Gwadar just hours after a massive earthquake struck the province of Baluchistan.

    Haiti's Slow Recovery Serves as Warning to Philippines

    Haiti is still struggling to lift itself from the rubble left by the 2010 earthquake, which killed some 230,000 people and left nearly two million homeless
    VOA News
    Scientists say they were able to forecast the size and location of an earthquake using GPS to study changes in the Earth’s shape.

    The Georgia Institute of Technology researchers say they predicted the magnitude 7.6 Nicoya earthquake that shook Costa Rica in 2012.

    The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica is one of the few places where land sits atop the portion of a subduction zone where the Earth’s greatest earthquakes take place. That makes it a good spot for learning how large earthquakes rupture.

    Subduction zones are locations where one tectonic plate is forced under another one and can often be the sites of devastating temblors. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan in 2011 was due to just such a subduction zone earthquake.

    Because earthquakes greater than about magnitude 7.5 have occurred in this region roughly every 50 years, with the previous event striking in 1950, scientists have been preparing for this earthquake through a number of geophysical studies. The most recent study used GPS to map out the area along the fault storing energy for release in a large earthquake.

    “This is the first place where we’ve been able to map out the likely extent of an earthquake rupture along the subduction megathrust beforehand,” said Andrew Newman, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

    Through a series of studies starting in the early 1990s using land-based tools, the researchers mapped regions where tectonic plates were completely locked along the subduction interface. Detailed geophysical observations of the region allowed the researchers to create an image of where the faults had locked.

    The researchers published a study a few months before the Nicoya earthquake, describing the particular locked area with the clearest potential for the next large earthquake in the region. The team projected the total amount of energy that could have developed across that region and forecasted that if the locking remained similar since the last major earthquake in 1950, then there was likely enough energy for an earthquake on the order of magnitude 7.8 there.

    “It occurred right in the area we determined to be locked and it had almost the size we expected,” Newman said.

    The researchers hope to apply what they’ve learned in Costa Rica to other environments. Virtually every damaging subduction zone earthquake occurs far offshore.

    “Nicoya is the only place on Earth where we’ve actually been able to get a very accurate image of the locked patch because it occurs directly under land,” Newman said. “If we really want to understand the seismic potential for most of the world, we have to go offshore.”

    Because of limits in technology and scientific understanding about processes controlling fault locking and release, scientists cannot say much about precisely when earthquakes will occur. However, earthquakes in Nicoya have occurred about every 50 years, so seismologists had been anticipating another one around 2000, give or take 20 years, Newman said.

    Scientists have been able to reasonably map portions of these locked areas offshore using data on land, but the resolution is poor, particularly in the regions that are most responsible for generating tsunamis, Newman said. He hopes that his group’s work in Nicoya will be a driver for geodetic studies on the seafloor to observe such Earth deformation. These seafloor geodetic studies are rare and expensive today.

    “If we want to understand the potential for large earthquakes, then we really need to start doing more seafloor observations,” Newman said. “It’s a growing push in our community and this study highlights the type of results that one might be able to obtain for most other dangerous environments, including offshore the Pacific Northwest.”

    The study was published online Dec. 22, 2013, in the journal Nature Geoscience.

    You May Like

    Pentagon: Afghan Hospital Bombing Not a War Crime

    US Central Command's Joseph Votel says probe found tragedy was result of 'extraordinarily intense situation' that included multiple equipment failures

    US Minorities Link Guns with Other Social Ills

    New study finds reduction in gun violence could help lower America’s incarceration rate – the world’s highest - and improve relationships between police, citizens in minority communities

    US Millennials Beat Baby Boomers as Largest Living Generation

    America's young people are about to take over and here's what we can expect from them

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama, TKO
    December 29, 2013 6:38 PM
    We already know a big earthquake occur roughly every 50 years and we know the size and location of it from the history.

    What we need is a forecast of when an earthquake will occur in one or two days accurcy.

    Over 5000 people were killed in 1995 and over 20000 people were killed in 2011 due to earthquake in Japan.

    Preventing these disasters is the first priority not only for Japan but also for the world, so accurate day and time forecast of earthquakes is very important.

    by: John Lenhart from: Green Bay, WI
    December 27, 2013 8:47 AM
    What is their current prediction for the next earthquake? If they don't have one, where would they publish their next prediction?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora