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News Notes
Botched prediction

Several large earthquakes struck Japan’s central island of Honshu over Labor Day weekend. Had these events occurred on the other side of the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” they would have fulfilled a forecast by a team of seismologists that a large temblor would strike before Sept. 5 in Southern California.

Vladimir Keilis-Borok and his co-workers have been developing models for the past 30 years that they hope will eventually predict earthquakes with some assurance (see Geotimes, March 2004). As part of their testing, the modelers have published and announced forecasts, including one made last January, forecasting a magnitude-6.4 earthquake or greater in the southeastern portion of the Mojave Desert and to the south, by Sept. 5.

Keilis-Borok and colleagues have claimed several successes in the past year, from the San Simeon earthquake in Paso Robles, Calif., last December to a magnitude-8.1 earthquake that struck Hokkaido, Japan, last year on Sept. 25 (the Japanese government also claimed success in forecasting that earthquake).

“We will learn from our mistakes how to improve the prediction methodology,” Keilis-Borok said in a statement released by the University of California at Los Angeles, where the team conducts its work. “If we made no mistakes, it would mean the problem is easy; and it is not easy, to put it mildly.”

Naomi Lubick

For the full story, visit the Geotimes Web Extra archive online or go straight to the Sept. 7 Web Extra.

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