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April 25, 2015
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Can earthquake be predicted?

Introduction:

A series of devastating earthquake shook Nepal and north eastern regions of India, leaving the once beautiful country region with pain grained on faces of people and debris where once stood haven for these people. Lives lost, homes shattered and never ending agony lingers in Nepal. An earthquake of such high magnitude, measuring 7.9 on Richter scale is the deadliest of its kind that once shook the same region 80 years back. In the past 80 years the world underwent remarkable changes, development and innovation that makes life easier and more predictable regarding storms and intense weather calamity forecasts to help prepare for natural disasters in advance. But why are we still lagging behind when it comes to predicting earthquakes? Apart from making infrastructures more sustainable, can nothing more be done to help people evacuate the region which is about to be turned into debris within minutes?

No:

1. Scientists and experts have confirmed time and again that earthquakes cannot be predicted. An estimation can only be made by scientists about the probability of an earthquake in high seismic activity zones. Even the most advanced countries that carry out the best of innovative research and studies have failed to make an accurate estimation of earthquake predicting even in the most earthquake prone regions. Perhaps in years to come science will be able to determine means of determining earthquake risks but at present it is just in theory.

2. False rumours started doing rounds on WhatsApp and Facebook that about even deadlier earthquakes being predicted by NASA. The only truth in the messages were aftershocks that were anticipated to follow such high magnitude earthquake and rightly so because the affected regions have felt tremors off and on in the last three days. Aftershocks can be predicted but not primary earthquake.

3. According to a geological report : “It is not currently possible to make deterministic predictions of when and where earthquakes will happen. For this to be possible, it would be necessary to identify a ‘diagnostic precursor’ – a characteristic pattern of seismic activity or some other physical, chemical or biological change, which would indicate a high probability of an earthquake happening in a small window of space and time. So far, the search for diagnostic precursors has been unsuccessful. Most geoscientists do not believe that there is a realistic prospect of accurate prediction in the foreseeable future, and the principal focus of research is on improving the forecasting of earthquakes.”

4. Earthquakes originate many kilometres down into the ground so measuring changes depends largely on instruments that can predict from the surface. Even measuring the prevailing intensity in the crust is challenging, for it requires drilling several kilometres into the ground. Just to predict earthquakes, we cannot go about drilling the grounds everywhere once in a while.

5. Some are of the view that changing pattern in animal behaviour can determine an upcoming earthquake in the region. This could be true because the senses of animals are far more sensitive than human senses. They can sense the tremor or changes in usual patterns hours before the actual hit and can show change in behaviour. But change in animal behaviour can also be due to various other reasons so cannot be determined if they are predicting earthquake.

6. Some people say that they can sense an upcoming disaster usually natural disasters but again even if the person has some sixth sense into the prospective, not everyone would believe and evacuate on being alarmed by a person’s senses.

Yes:

1. Nepal’s big earthquake was long predicted not just because of natural causes but because of man made ones. Just a week before the earthquake shook Kathmandu, about 50 earthquake and social scientists from around the world came to the same region to figure out how to get this poor, congested, overdeveloped, shoddily built area to prepare for the big shock. Seismologist James Jackson, head of the earth sciences department at the University of Cambridge in England recalls thinking of the incident as a nightmare waiting to happen. People continued concentrating in earthquake prone areas, lacking building codes and rampant development, allowing homes and other structures to be built without any regard to earthquakes.

2. Plate movement can be detected using laser beams. Seismometers can be used to keep a check on vibrations in the earth’s crusty, an increase in which predicts earthquake approaching in the region.

3. Radon gas that escapes from cracks in earth’s crust can also be kept in check and an increase in its level can suggest earthquake risks in the region. It is understandable that these are not 100% accurate in predicting earthquake but being cautious is better than being ignorant.

Conclusion:

Currently there is no scientific method to predict an approaching earthquake in a particular region at a particular time but in years to come, we can definitely hope for better techniques to determine the factors. Meanwhile, countries should enforce building codes and ensure that the concentration remains less in areas prone to natural disasters. Earthquake sustainable building should be constructed and locals should be trained on how to remain cautious during these disasters.

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