Earthquakes and Typhoons

In which case, you probably know more about it than I do. My status is humble. However, it is a fascinating area of science.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about my job and earthquake research is the uneasy relationship between conventionalist and for want of a better term the lateralists.

Conventionalists look at earthquake hazard mitigation through the prism of measurement and process description. Their interest is directed toward hazard mitigation through better construction standards, city planning, and earthquake prediction over the longer term and how this might influence these other aspects of hazard mitigation. It is an extremely practical, erstwhile solution to a problem that found a lot of traction vis a vis mitigation efforts when the best the lateralists could offer was barking dogs and cloud formations.

On the other hand, and I’d be interested to hear your opinion on this, it seems to me that the conventionalists might be unwittingly and at times overtly holding back the real possibility of earthquake prediction in our lifetimes.

The issue as I see it relates to funding. Measurement is expensive and has traditionally held sway because at the very least it offered understanding of earthquake severity, likelihood, and to a lesser extent location. From a traditionalists point of view, it offers real value. Yet, the holy grail is in short term prediction.

I’ve read a few papers recently about short term prediction, in particular the work of some local researchers and ionospheric TEC that seems promising with one claim that at least theoretically short term prediction is possible, especially given Taiwan’s latitude.

A while back, however, after the Kobe earthquake, Japan set up a council to study short term prediction but the project was wound up after only a few years because of a lack of funding. The conventionalists actively undermined the lateralists to ensure funding was better directed toward their areas of research.

To my mind, I think that the lateralists should be given the scope and means to conceptualize methods for short term prediction. I say this because I think there is a fundamental truth to the basic premise that for all the value that measurement and understanding of process and mechanism offers essentially all one needs to know is that the big ones are dangerous and the big ones present anomalous behavior prior to nucleation that matches their strength so lets look for that.

What they need is a bunch of crocodiles running about in their labs. I’ve heard that those things can predict earthquakes real good.

What bout the magma chamber underneath the 7 star/Tatun mountains in TAipei. Is 7star or Tatun eruption probable?

[quote=“Fox”]In which case, you probably know more about it than I do. My status is humble. However, it is a fascinating area of science. [/quote]Ah well, not necessarily, I’m not a seismologist and am generally focused on bigger scales and longer time periods, and I’m sure you’ve read more papers relevant to Taiwan than I have. I’m glad someone else also finds it interesting though :slight_smile:
Earthquake prediction is definitely a bit of a touchy subject, and yep, most conventionalists are somewhat dismissive of it. I think part of the problem is that you have a relatively small sample size - there aren’t that many big earthquakes and you’ve got to be looking at the right thing at the right time in the right place. So even if you do have a great prediction mechanism, it’s not easy to get enough data to prove its not a fluke. There’s also the problem that if you find something that does occur persistently before earthquakes, it had better not also occur without an earthquake following. A few false positives and people stop listening. And a few (or a lot of) crappy studies and people start to dismiss the whole field. Actually I just came across an interesting thing on the Nature website - 10 years old, but the attitudes of the naysayers is what many people have been brought up on (scientifically speaking).
Funding is definitely a problem - it always is for relatively new ideas and techniques. It’s very competitive, and a big part of what gets a grant funded is whether they think you will be able to successfully carry out what you propose. For something new, that’s a hard sell. Plus, measurement is also useful for looking at a whole host of other things that aren’t necessarily intended for any practical purpose. So there will be a much much larger community pushing for it. And although seismologists and earthquake geologists have to claim in their proposals and papers that they’re doing something practical, a lot of them are just in it for the theory.
People can also be dismissive of effects that they don’t understand - it seems that there’s a relationship between earthquakes, electromagnetic signals, and ionic disturbances, but until someone can explain exactly why and how it works, some people will always be skeptical.
But there have been lots of ideas that started out labeled as ‘kooky’ and are now more or less accepted, along some fights that are still ongoing :slight_smile:
But I agree, the stuff on ionospheric and electromagnetic effects does look promising; I hope it does get more funding. Maybe it’ll turn into something like climate change science, which was scoffed at back in the day, but is now THE hot topic and gets tons of money. Your chances of getting funding (and getting published in high profile places) are highly related to the hotness of your topic, which can be a little depressing.
Or you could just get some bunny rabbits :slight_smile: Or snakes, they’re apparently pretty good at it :slight_smile: :wink:


I’m not sure but I did read a paper on that recently discussing magma flows in the Tatun group. I think the basic idea was that dormant wasn’t an appropriate description for Tatun–whatever that means.

Nice reply zyzzx.

They are all good points. I think there is a good story in there somewhere about where earthquake prediction is eventually going to come from. The study I was referring to used statistically relevant sparse TEC content before large earthquakes from historical data and then a later researcher took those earthquakes and was able to use a transform matrix based on pixilations from satellite images of the TEC over the earthquake nucleation zones and discern earthquake related anomalies from background TEC anomalies. Fact or Fiction? I’m not sure but he was convinced.

It might be possible, but my guess is unlikely. At least some people think that there may still be some magma down there, although I’m not sure what the consensus is these days. But volcanic eruptions are more often somewhat predictable. You can detect magma moving around, pressure building up, changes in gasses released as the plumbing is reorganized, etc. As long as someone is paying attention…

[quote=“Earth Scientists show Slow Earthquakes Triggered by Typhoons, Publish in Nature”]Scientists from Academia Sinica’s Institute of Earth Sciences (IES) and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington have made the surprising discovery that slow earthquakes are triggered by typhoons—in eastern Taiwan, at least. The researchers published their findings in Nature (Volume 459 Number 7248) on June 11.

Slow earthquakes are non-violent fault slippage events that take hours or days instead of a few brutal seconds to minutes to release their potent energy.[/quote]

[quote=“Earth Scientists show Slow Earthquakes Triggered by Typhoons, Publish in Nature”]“Typhoons reduce the atmospheric pressure on land, but do not affect conditions at the ocean bottom, because water moves into the area and equalizes the pressure,” explained one of the coauthors of the Nature article, Dr. Selwyn Sacks, of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at Carnegie. “The reduction in pressure above one side of an obliquely dipping fault tends to unclamp it.”

“These data are unequivocal in identifying typhoons as triggers of these slow quakes. The probability that they coincide by chance is vanishingly small,” remarked another coauthor Dr. Alan Linde of Carnegie.[/quote]

Maybe it was different one.