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How do scientists predict earthquakes?

Scientists cannot predict earthquakes - otherwise we would not have so many where hundreds or thousands of people get killed, like the recent one in Japan. After an earthquake has happened there are various things geologists look for in the "fault" associated with the earthquake to give some idea of how long it will be till the next one. The "fault" is the part of the earth's crust where two sections are sliding against one another in some fashion. To make real predictions would require knowing the location of all these faults (some kind of map), knowing at what stage each of them is (how much tension there is and what kind of things are preventing the fault from slipping) and how they interact with one another. Even for very carefully studied regions like southern California, we have only a very small fraction of the information that would be needed for true prediction.

Arthur Smith

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