Earthquakes are contagious

Summary:High-quality seismometers placed along major earthquake zones could soon lead to accurate predictions of future shocks that will save lives.

When a really big earthquake strikes, like the one that just hit Indonesia, you can expect others to follow worldwide.

And we may soon be able to predict where.

A team of Carnegie Institution researchers headed by UC Berkeley's Taka'aki Taira found this out by studying earthquake patterns in Parkfield, Calif., along the San Andreas Fault.

The finding, according to the journal Nature, could lead to a new way to predict earthquakes, which had been thought impossible.

What the team found was that the 2004 earthquake in Indonesia caused the San Andreas Fault to weaken significantly, with the results picked up by a series of seismometers installed years ago along the fault.

Measurements of fault strength, combined with knowledge of large earthquakes elsewhere in the world, can thus predict future jolts.

The easy thing to say about this is that when the Earth jolts far away watch out. But high-quality seismometers, placed along major earthquake zones, could soon lead to accurate predictions of future shocks that will save lives.

This post was originally published on

Topics: Innovation


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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