Thursday, March 31, 2011

We Can't Predict Earthquakes

Scientific American has a guest blog post by Dr. Christie Rowe, Earthquake triggering, and why we don't know where the next big one will strike. It's mostly calling bullshit on a Newsweek article.

"The Newsweek article argues that the relatively small but very damaging Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake of February 22, 2011, the very large Chilean earthquake of Feburary 27, 2010 and the recent great earthquake in Japan constitute 'triggering events' around the Pacific Plate, stating, 'That leaves just one corner unaffected—the northeast. And the fault line in the northeast of the Pacific Plate is the San Andreas Fault, underpinning the city of San Francisco.' After this geographical error, Mr. Winchester states that the stresses around the San Andreas have built to 'barely tolerable levels' and that a triggering event is required to set off a great quake.

Mr. Winchester, a well-known author of several popular science books on geological topics, is much better versed in the history of geological events, and much of the science around them, than most people. However, his piece in Newsweek contains wrong information, baseless predictions and an ominous tone that is more fear-mongering than warning."

1 comment:

Richard said...

He made the graph I was going to make of the earthquakes of magnitude 8 or greater from USGS data which relieves some of my frustration with this topic.

I have actually met Simon Winchester and gotten his autograph. I like his books, but it saddens me that he has jumped on the hype bandwagon and is plugging pseudoscience. I wonder if he knows how his credibility has been damaged with this article.