Posts in the category »  Earthquake «  ( 117 Posts )

  • Catch 22

    In the wake of the verdict in the L’Aquila earthquake trial big words were not spared. Is this a “battle between science and politics”? Is the decision taken “more reminiscent of Dark Ages magical thinking than modern scientific understanding”? Is this trial “likened to persecution of Galileo”? In reaction to the verdict, a common tendency in the earth science and risk community seems to move towards a ‘withdrawal’ from our commitment to society. But is this the right thing to do?

    This short-sighted verdict may indeed very well alienate society’s strongest ally when it comes to safeguarding society against potential dramatic consequences of earthquakes. But is society helped when scientists systematically overexaggerate the potential hazard to cover themselves against possible legal consequences? Such attitude would completely erode the credibility of science. And when a hazard becomes really serious, society will turn a deaf ear to the advice of the scientists. Society isn’t helped either when scientists withdraw in their academic ‘ivory towers’ and completely ignore their societal role. This would only give ‘charlatans’ carte blanche to preach doom.

    Eventually, scientists do not have a choice! Scientists have to stick to their responsibility towards society. In risk communication they will have to be as clear and honest as possible, but without devaluing the nuance inherent to science. Scientists have to keep confronting authorities that run away from their responsibilities. And scientists will have to keep investing in an ‘informed citizenry’, to provide them all necessary tools to become aware and resilient with respect to the inevitable earthquake. But at the end, scientists should be able to say and write freely and unconditionally wherever their science leads them!

     

  • Man-made earthquakes and science communication

    Two papers on man-made earthquakes have been published last week and both have had received media coverage. Especially now, few days after the L’Aquila trial, the public is interested in any earthquake story and so the new findings that severe earthquakes happened due to human action caused some attention. Additionally, it caused me a headache and triggered not an earthquake, but a feeling of anger. Let’s talk about some good examples for bad science communication. more

  • What’s up? The Friday links (46)

    For me the most important geo news this week was the court decision on the L’Aquila trial on Monday. A local court sentenced six scientists and one official for manslaughter to six years in prison – 2 years more than claimed by the prosecutor. Even though the scientists may not have found the best words to describe the earthquake hazard in L’Aquila, the decision is ridiculous in my opinion and caused an outcry throughout the scientific community. Especially the consequences for any risk assessment and public information might be fatal. I am really concerned. In the following I link to some blog posts that I found particularly interesting:

    more

  • L’Aquila trial: Italian scientists guilty of manslaughter – up to six years in prison

    Breaking news are sad ones for the earthquake community. A court in Italy found seven scientists guilty of manslaughter in multiple cases and sentenced them to prison. The scientists had to give a statement about the likelyhood of a major quake after a series of tremors occurred in L’Aquila. They stated that there was no higher risk for a forthcoming major event; few days later a M6.3 earthquake devastated the historical city and more than 300 people died.

    The scientific community tried to support the italian scientists by clarifying that earthquake prediction is still impossible. Also, more than 5000 scientists signed an open letter in support of the Italian colleagues. This is surely a sad day for earthquake geology and I am sure it will change the way we communicate our findings to the public and to officials.

  • Special Issue on the 2012 Emilia (Italy) earthquakes in Annals of Geophysics

    Annals of Geophysics, the former Annali di Geofisica, published its latest issue today, dedicated to the 2012 Northern Italy earthquakes: Vol 55, No 4 (2012): The Emilia (northern Italy) seismic sequence of May-June, 2012: preliminary data and results. On 20 May 2012 an earthquake with a magnitude of Mw6.1 hit Finale Emilia, on 29 May an Mw5.8 event followed. The earthquakes caused a number of fatalities and significant damage. Earthquake environmental effects were widely observed, too. more

  • New papers on the Sparta Fault, Greece and the Wasatch Fault, Utah

    The Sparta Fault in Greece is marked by one of the most impressive mountain fronts I’ve ever seen. A huge (yes, huge!) fault scarp has developed, traceable for kilometers; the fault itself is more than 60 km long. Ancient Sparta has been devastated by the last known major (M>7) earthquake that happened at this fault in 464 BC. Now, Papanikolaou et al. have published new data on this fault. They examined how paramaters like throw, segmentation, and catchments vary along strike and created a new seismic hazard map, showing a site-specific long-term recurrence interval of ~1.8 ka (+/- 450 a). more

  • Earthquake series in southern China

    This Friday a series of four major earthquakes happened in the border region of Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, S China. At least 80 fatalities and almost 800 injured were recorded, the China Earthquake Administration states. International journals confirm these news. Associated landslides were reported. more

  • An earthquake catalogue for the last millenium

    A new earthquake catalogue has been published by the GFZ Potsdam (German Research Centre for Geosciences). The Database covers the European-Mediterranean area and reaches back to AD1000. This is good news and an important step on our long way to collect all earthquake information available in one place. I say it’s a first step only, because we know much more than the catalogue incorporates: Besides ~100 years of instrumental records we have historical data covering hundreds of years in many regions, but reaching back to some thousands of years in regions like Greece and Israel. Then, there’s archaeoseismological data of course and paleoseismology, which can resolve events that happened thousands of years ago. more

  • A M7.7 earthquake in the Sea of Okhotsk and two M6.2 events in Iran

    This morning at 03:00 UTC an earthquake with magnitude MW7.7 occurred in the Sea of Okhotsk. Due to its great depth of more than 600 km no tsunami was triggered and surface shaking was pretty low, however, the event was felt in a wide area. Moment tensor solutions indicate a thrust event. Historical seismicity tells us that significant earthquakes are likely to happen in the region and mostly occur in great depths, but at this certain location only few events have been registered during the last decades. more

  • What’s up? The Friday links (40)

    On 11 April 2012, a Mw8.6 strike-slip earthquake occurred off Sumatra in a kind of intra-plate setting and came as a surprise to the earthquake community. Such a strong strike-slip event was not expected, we always thought that the huge thrust quakes at subduction zones were the only ones to release that much energy. Now a press release by CalTech reports on the latest studies that came to the result that many previously unknown perpendicular faults ruptured at this event. Immediately some journalists suggested that this might also happen at the San Andreas Fault. I do not know of any paleoseismological evidence that this has happened there before. However, how likely is this scenario?

    Link to the paper: An earthquake in a maze: compressional rupture branching during the April 11 2012 M8.6 Sumatra earthquake. more

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