Every year, earthquakes cause thousands of deaths and millions of dollars in property damage. Though most scientists agree that accurately predicting an earthquake is currently impossible, Big Data collection and analysis is on the verge of changing that.

The science behind earthquake prediction is a complicated mix of tectonics and mathematical probability based on environmental observations. Though these disciplines provide a framework for prediction models, success has been limited by the difficulty of sifting through enormous amounts of existing data.

Thanks to advances in technology, large amounts of earthquake-related data can now be analyzed and shared in a timely fashion. The Center for Warfare Studies Journal published a fascinating paper by Senior Fellow, Haridas M in the winter of 2015, concluding that data mining and statistical analysis are the future of earthquake prediction. “When factors related to earthquakes are monitored and analyzed constantly with Big Data, even the smallest changes can send warning signals as Big Data has the capability to capture it with greater precision,” said Haridas M.

The International Journal of Innovative Research in Computer and Communication Engineering detailed such a project in March of 2016. It uses new software developed specifically for compiling and visualizing raw earthquake data faster than the Excel method currently used. In addition to providing earlier warnings of quakes in progress, the ability to cluster large amounts of earthquake data will allow scientists to see relationships between events that may have appeared unrelated in the past.

Another exciting development on the prediction front first appeared in Forbes in April of 2015 and was referenced in the CLAWS Journal piece. Terra Seismic, based in the UK, is using Big Data satellite technology to measure atmospheric abnormalities that occur before earthquakes, such as the release of radon gas and fluctuations in magnetic fields. By measuring precursor activity by satellite and analyzing existing observations, Terra Seismic claims an impressive 90% prediction rate. In an interview with Forbes contributor Bernard Marr, CEO Oleg Elshin claimed prediction of “Chile’s megaquake (magnitude 8.1), Guerrero, Mexico’s 7.2 quake and 6.4 quake in Indonesia nine days before it hit on March 3.”

These exciting breakthroughs bear watching. Big Data technology is providing faster response times and earlier, more accurate earthquake warning systems than ever before.

 

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