Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Next "Big One" won't be easy to Predict

Following the earthquake and tsunami events in Japan, some US media outlets have been busy trying to drum up interest/fear that the victim of next "Big One" is going to be California.  Especially guilty of this is Simon Winchester, who wrote an article for Newsweek where he makes the assertion that earthquakes essentially create mirrors of themselves.  According to Winchester, Japan's recent megaquake was a reflection of the 2010 Chilean Earthquake.  Following his logic, and I use that term loosely, the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch, New Zealand earthquakes will be mirrored in . . . you guessed it: California .  The geophysicist community hasn't been quiet about their disdain for what is essentially a pseudoscience and fear-mongering fluff piece meant to sell copy, and luckily both blogging and mainstream media organization have been willing to run more scientifically grounded articles as a counter.

It would certainly be great if it were that easy to predict earthquakes, but as Susan E. Hough, seismologist for U.S. Geological Survey, pointed out in a CNN article, "pointing to any one corner of the Earth as the location of the next Big One is not a winning game. Take a map of the world's most active plate boundaries and throw a dart; where it lands is as good a guess as any."

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