My hometown of Los Angeles is home to the earliest reported earthquake dating back to 1769 (and, of course, many more since then). The largest recorded earthquake in the worldoccurred in Chile in May of 1960 measuring at a magnitude of 9.5 moment magnitudes. A single earthquake can cause destruction costing hundreds of millions of dollars to repair and, far more importantly, can end in fatalities.
In 2009, scientists in Italy were convicted of manslaughter for failing to predict the L’Aquila earthquake that killed more than 300 people. But how successful can we expect our quake predictions to be?
In the United States, the scientific experts on all things geology are at the US Geological Survey. Their webpage on earthquake prediction starts: “Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future.” Well, that is pretty clear!
But why not? If we can predict hurricanes, floods, and tornados, although to differing degrees of reliability, why don’t we know when the next “big one” is going to happen when it comes to earthquakes?