A new study by a pair of French researchers says patterns in GPS data that measure fault slips found they often precede large earthquakes by as much as two hours, offering hope for predicting such catastrophic events before they occur.
Previous efforts dating back to the 1970s have failed to find a reliable method for predicting large earthquakes, but the researchers behind these findings say that their work could finally lead to such a method, potentially saving millions of lives.
A Reliable Method for predicting earthquakes Has Remained Elusive for Decades.
As far back as the 1970s, seismologists and geologists started to surmise that finding a way to predict earthquakes well before they occur must be possible. Some studies seemed promising at first, and one honest-to-goodness official prediction actually occurred in Haicheng, China, in 1975.
A further review of that event seemed to indicate that there was a lot of luck involved, and by the 1980s, most serious efforts to predict earthquakes had been abandoned or shelved until technological improvements could potentially make them more viable.
Now, a team of French researchers says they have found a relatively reliable pattern using the relatively modern tool of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that could potentially offer an earthquake warning nearly two hours before the shaking occurs.
Fault Slips Seem to Indicate Predicting Seismic Events with GPS is Possible
Published in the journal Science, the research by Quentin Bletery and Jean-Mathieu Nocquet from the Universite Côte d’Azur, IRD, CNRS, shows that a series of slips along the fault that is about to cause a quake can be spotted by GPS tracking.
“In the past decade, the idea has grown that large earthquakes initiate with a potentially observable slow aseismic phase of slip on the fault, associated with increased microseismicity,” they write. “On the basis of either geodetic or seismic data, these studies suggest that…