Earthquake Simulators - Ready for the 11 O’clock News?

Steve's picture

 

We’ve all tuned into the 6 or 11 o’clock TV news to catch the weather forecast. Is that storm going to hit? Maybe I should cancel my round of golf. Is a freeze likely tonight? I’d better cover the roses. Will tomorrow be a scorcher? Perhaps I get in that family beach trip. 

 Many day-to-day decisions rest on weather forecasts. Today, most TV weather guys depend upon information supplied by numerical weather simulators. These elegant computer calculations take current conditions of wind, temperature, cloud cover, etc. and project them forward in time using the laws of physics and certain empirical relations. Although weather models rarely agree exactly, sound enough they are to support many of those day-to-day choices. 



 Wouldn’t it be neat if we could forecast earthquakes in the same way that we forecast the weather?  After all, don’t earthquakes obey physical laws? Why can’t we build a numerical earthquake simulator? Imagine turning on the late night news and hearing a forecaster say --- “All the major earthquake simulations indicate that the quake that we’ve been expecting will arrive here next Wednesday.”

 Truth to say, such a specific physics-based earthquake forecast is wishful thinking. However, the concept that the behaviors of whole fault systems and the earthquakes on them might be incorporated into, and predicted from, a computer code is something that many scientists believe worthy of pursuit. Several first-generation earthquake simulators exist already. Fairly crude affairs, these prototypes liken to numerical weather models forty years ago, but they blaze the trail forward.

So just yet, I would not reschedule next Wednesday’s tennis match based on output from numerical earthquake simulators. Still even as they stand now, their long term hazard estimates (example attached) are as equally well footed as those constructed by traditional means.

 I’ve put together this little YouTube video that broaches the topic of physics-based earthquake simulation.  I hope that it will stimulate your thinking on the topic.

Earthquake Simulators:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIuwAAPAEFw

Steven N. Ward,   Santa Cruz

 

Comments

Richardson21's picture

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