Parkfield

Well, the Parkfield earthquake finally seems to have happened.
Parkfield‘s a town in California, adjacent to the San Andreas Fault. The particular segment of the San Andreas running through the area has had earthquakes on an unusually regular schedule since the 19th century — a magnitude 6 about once every twenty to thirty years. Prior to yesterday, the last one was in 1966; it was believed that the next one would happen by the mid-90s, but it failed to materialize. That was the closest I’ve ever seen to an official North American earthquake prediction, and it didn’t pan out; of course, it was a probabilistic prediction, not an absolute one, but nonetheless it turned into an example of just how unpredictable earthquakes are.
Well, now, the suspense is over. No one hurt, fortunately, and after a decade I think we can just call it fashionably late.

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2 comments so far

  1. Jacqueline on

    “That was the closest I’ve ever seen to an official North American earthquake prediction…”
    Hmm… I went to high school in central Illinois and there was a *very* specific prediction of an earthquake along the New Madrid fault on December 3, 1990. Yes, I even remember the day of the prediction. Everyone was crazy over it, and earthquake insurance was selling like hotcakes.
    Then again, I just located a USGS site on that, and I guess it was only the public that took it seriously, not the seismologists… http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/pANDs/12b.html

  2. Andrew Frederiksen on

    Hmm, yeah. People make predictions all the time, but they’re usually fringey at best (and based on astrology at worst). The Parkfield case was a forecast based on an unusually well-defined recurrance interval, and so was better founded than most — it just didn’t pan out.


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