Japan earthquake: Big, shallow quakes have a warning signal, say researchers
The release of radon gases three days prior to the May 11 Japan earthquake triggered changes in the atmosphere over Japan. It's early but this may be a warning signal to predict future quakes, says not-yet-published research by California scientists.
(Page 2 of 2)
Nonetheless, the success of earthquake forecasting is far from guaranteed. No one has ever predicted an earthquake from atmospheric data, and plenty of supposed earthquake precursors, from weird animal behavior to groundwater flowing the wrong way, have proven hit-or-miss.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
To iron out the usefulness of the atmospheric approach, Pollack told LiveScience, you'd need to look at lots of earthquakes over time to make sure the phenomena is statistically linked with fault ruptures. You'd also want to know how often these atmospheric anomalies show up without an associated quake.
Terry Tullis, an emeritus professor of geological sciences at Brown University, was similarly doubtful. Earthquake scientists have been "burned enough times in the past" and so have learned not to get excited about every potential prediction method, Tullis told LiveScience. But plans are underway to put together a workshop between earth scientists and atmospheric scientists this summer to discuss the research on the ionosphere changes, he said.
"I don't want to dismiss it out of hand," Tullis said. "But at this point, one has to be somewhat skeptical."
The full report is available at The Physics arXiv Blog. The researchers have also submitted their research report to a scientific journal.
- The World's Weirdest Weather
- Image Gallery: This Millennium's Destructive Earthquakes
- In Pictures: Japan Earthquake & Tsunami