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Space Blog

Earthquake Prediction From Space

For some years now, SSTL has been using its Disaster Monitoring Constellation satellites to assist people around the globe who have become victims of natural disasters. On behalf of the International Charter, imagery has been rapidly collected, analysed, and then delivered to relief organisations which use the data in the immediate aftermath of natural catastrophes such as tsunamis, forest fires, floods, and earthquakes. It has long been an ambition to move beyond "Disaster Monitoring" into the realm of "Disaster Mitigation": providing assistance not only after the event has happened, but reducing the impact of the event by providing warning in advance of an impending disaster. In some cases, of course, this is already possible. Hurricanes and cyclones can be tracked across the oceans for several days in advance of their landfall, giving residents in their path time to prepare. And indeed, this warning period also provides relief organisations with the opportunity to schedule imagery collection opportunities in anticipation of the expected destruction. But other catastrophes are much harder to forecast, and perhaps the most intractable are earthquakes. Infrequently, major earthquakes, (so-called intra-plate earthquakes), occur unexpectedly, well away from known fault lines: an example being the magnitude 8 New Madrid earthquake of 1812, which was powerful enough to change the course of the Mississippi river in the USA. Most of the time, however, earthquakes occur in relatively predictable locations on known fault lines "“ the San Andreas fault in California being probably the best known crack in the Earth’s crust. So the problem is not so much to determine where an earthquake is likely to occur, but rather trying to figure out when it will happen. Consequently, scientists have spent years looking for precursor signals that they can measure in advance of an earthquake to provide people with an adequate warning.





17 June 20110 Comments1 Comment

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