Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? – Jean-Baptiste P. Koehl

In 132 CE, Chinese polymath Zhang Heng presented the Han court with
his latest invention. This large vase, he claimed, could tell them whenever an earthquake
occurred in their kingdom– including the direction
they should send aid. The court was somewhat skeptical, especially when the device triggered
on a seemingly quiet afternoon. But when messengers came
for help days later, their doubts turned to gratitude. Today, we no longer rely on pots to
identify seismic events, but earthquakes still offer a unique
challenge to those trying to track them. So why are earthquakes so
hard to anticipate, and how could we get better
at predicting them? To answer that, we need to understand some theories
behind how earthquakes occur. Earth’s crust is made from several vast,
jagged slabs of rock called tectonic plates, each riding on a hot, partially molten
layer of Earth’s mantle. This causes the plates to
spread very slowly, at anywhere from 1 to 20
centimeters per year. But these tiny movements are powerful
enough to cause deep cracks in the
interacting plates. And in unstable zones, the intensifying pressure may
ultimately trigger an earthquake. It’s hard enough to monitor these
miniscule movements, but the factors that turn shifts into
seismic events are far more varied. Different fault lines juxtapose
different rocks– some of which are stronger–or weaker–
under pressure. Diverse rocks also react differently to
friction and high temperatures. Some partially melt, and can release
lubricating fluids made of superheated minerals that reduce fault line friction. But some are left dry, prone to dangerous build-ups of pressure. And all these faults are subject to
varying gravitational forces, as well as the currents of hot rocks
moving throughout Earth’s mantle. So which of these hidden variables
should we be analyzing, and how do they fit into our
growing prediction toolkit? Because some of these forces occur
at largely constant rates, the behavior of the plates
is somewhat cyclical. Today, many of our most reliable clues
come from long-term forecasting, related to when and where earthquakes
have previously occurred. At the scale of millennia, this allows us to make predictions
about when highly active faults, like the San Andreas, are overdue for a massive earthquake. But due to the many variables involved, this method can only predict
very loose timeframes. To predict more imminent events, researchers have investigated the
vibrations Earth elicits before a quake. Geologists have long used seismometers to track and map these tiny shifts
in the earth’s crust. And today, most smartphones are
also capable of recording primary seismic waves. With a network of phones around the globe, scientists could potentially
crowdsource a rich, detailed warning system that alerts
people to incoming quakes. Unfortunately, phones might not be able
to provide the advance notice needed to enact safety protocols. But such detailed readings
would still be useful for prediction tools like NASA’s
Quakesim software, which can use a rigorous blend of
geological data to identify regions at risk. However, recent studies indicate the most telling signs of a quake might be
invisible to all these sensors. In 2011, just before an earthquake struck
the east coast of Japan, nearby researchers recorded surprisingly
high concentrations of the radioactive isotope pair:
radon and thoron. As stress builds up in the crust right
before an earthquake, microfractures allow these gases
to escape to the surface. These scientists think that if we built
a vast network of radon-thoron detectors in earthquake-prone areas, it could become a promising
warning system– potentially predicting quakes
a week in advance. Of course, none of these technologies
would be as helpful as simply looking deep inside
the earth itself. With a deeper view we might be able to track and predict large-scale
geological changes in real time, possibly saving tens of thousands
of lives a year. But for now, these technologies can help us prepare
and respond quickly to areas in need– without waiting for directions
from a vase.

100 thoughts on “Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? – Jean-Baptiste P. Koehl

  1. Because Katrina can’t make up her damn mind if she wants to be a tortilla or not.

    Edit: sorry, this is a video for earthquakes. I’m sure hurricanes are quaking in the air gtg sleep

  2. I wonder why scientists search water on Mars, while they don't solve the mysteries of the lithosphere, atmosphere, and even the biosphere. If an earthquake threatens to destroy Earth, would we find a way to prevent it or leave for another planet? I'd go with the first one.

    "The first way to discover everything is to start with your own."

    Anyways, good video, Ted Ed. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  3. https://www.youtube.com/user/Suspicious0bservers they predict 6.2 or above at over an 80% rate, the sun is the straw that breaks the quakes back

  4. 3:17 just some random people chatting in Japanese toilet. Their phones are getting free ringtone everytime quake occur

  5. Some people are scared of heights. Some are scared of clowns. I'm terrified of earthquakes. They leave me panicking no matter how small. Also. I live in southern California. So I'm just kinda screwed huh?

  6. I wonder what cities, countries, would adopt a new unproven warning system that would require all citizens to evacuate the danger zones?

    I heard about a city somewhere that got a warning about a potential earthquake. It didnt happen (or it did but was small) and cost the city millions from relocating citizens and stopping tourists from visiting.

    Or Would the testing be done first without alerting cities about the potential problem?

    I wonder what % of accuracy would be required for cities to accept the system? Especially cities like San Fran, LA, and others with high daily GP.

  7. About the vase… I am Chinese and I am proud of my culture and history. But the thing is many Chinese scholars are skeptical about the existence of this vase right now. The picture of the vase you see in the video is a recreation of the original model that people put together based on ancient articles without sufficient details. They tried several recreations and just failed to predict earthquake as the antient articles claimed. It could be that the emperor at that time didn't want to expose enough details in case the technology falls into enemy's hand, or it could just be a story created to make his kingdom sound more powerful.
    Well, it's all history now and we cannot really know which one is true. But a lot of Chinese scholars are recognizing this fact and proposing to change the textbooks about this vase until solid evidence says otherwise.

  8. Can someone tell the animator that hiding under an object when an earthquake happens anly guaranteees you get killed? The safest way to protect yourself in an earthquake is to look for the "triangle of life". Look it up.

  9. What happened to those guys that claimed they could predict earthquakes using sunspots and other solar weather aspects?

  10. https://www.total-slovenia-news.com/made-in-slovenia/3399-slovenian-physicist-presents-omega-theory-to-predict-earthquakes

  11. Not so hard to predict.

    This group has an impressive accuracy record.
    Often predicting them 24 hours before they happen.

  12. 4:02 yeah…. North Korea’s probably gonna say no. And also (just saying) South Korea doesn’t have that much space then North Korea

  13. Oh,wow. The United States has a program which could predict if you remove somebody from the terrorist list if it will be worse or better,and we can't read their minds. But,we can't predict earthquakes.

  14. Earthquakes are often common here now in the Philippines. Seriously, a 6.1(I think) magnitude just hit the province of Pampanga in the island of Luzon not so long ago.

  15. Quake Watch already has an Earthquake/Disaster Prediction App


  16. "Why are earthquakes so hard to predict?"


    No offense…. but whatever man, I've already published how to forecast an earthquake, and it got removed from my provider (wordpress) after being flagged down for being "controversial". Literal "how to" directions.

    So.. whatever

    Cheers and have a nice day!

  17. I have a question if you jump on the sky and then it started to earthquake will the gravity move too?

  18. I wonder what the chances are that I'll be sitting in the toilet during an earthquake like the guy at 3:18.

  19. Earthquake prediction problem has been solved successfully in 2018 when Elsevier published the Omega-Theory. See the Quantectum internet site: https://quantectum-main.blogspot.com/

  20. The folks at "Suspicious 0bsevers" channel will show you how to predict earthquakes. They've been doing it for some time, using radical new theory regarding electrical flow between Earth and our star. They even have the grudging respect of the USGS!

  21. Human blood type O by The Bad created and brought them into this earth 1,000 years are . They are US , Europe , UK , Asia and Africa . So this video is distort .

  22. Watch this video clip: kayakers found a rapid stream of bubbles in the ocean near the epicenter after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked Kaikoura, New Zealand on 14 November 2016.Earthquake is caused by continuous build-up of trapped gases or steam underneath the bedrock until it snapped, When this happened the earthquake ensued. After trapped gases or steam has escaped, the fragmented bedrocks rebalance themselves and this caused aftershocks. If you are interested in real discoveries, I would recommend you to read my book, The Unification Theory – Volume One and you will be amazed with lots of new, interesting discoveries. In God I trust.

  23. I think earthquakes are caused by a lack of underground water in a certain area. Water in a ground acts like a strong glue. No water, no cohesion. Or too much water .. If there is and earthquake at a certain area, and that area has a good amount of water, you'll probably get a slime suction action, and the earthquake won't be so severe. Or mud ?

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