Earthquake Predictions

(HawaiiNewsNow) - A Japanese Scientist may have found a way to predict really big earthquakes. His discovery could radically change seismology as Howard Dicus reports.

The magnitude nine earthquake that devastated Japan on march 11th did something really, really interesting - it triggered waves in the atmosphere.

That's pretty neat, but not half as exciting as this - it may have disrupted electrically-charged particles in the ionosphere before shaking land and water.

Kosuke Heki of Hokkaido University gathered data from a thousand GPS receivers - which communicate with satellites using signals that can be disrupted slightly by a surge in electrons.

He detected a rise of 8% in total electron content in the ionosphere above the quake zone - 40 minutes before the actual quake - the disruption was greatest near the epicenter and weaker as one got farther away.

So here's what Heki said about it "before finding this phenomenon, I did not think earthquakes could be predicted at all - now I think large earthquakes are predictable."

Heki says he has analysed data from the 2010 8.8 quake in Chile and found similar disruptions in the force.

Two cautionary notes - solar storms also disrupt the ionosphere so they'd have to figure out a way to tell the difference - and Heki can't measure the effect unless a quake is about 8.5 or bigger, so finer measurement would also be nice.

This research can be found in the current edition of the JJournal Geophysical Research Letters.