When the field of earthquake prediction took off in the mid- 1970s, seismologists had high hopes of finding geologic warning signs that would allow them to issue timely evacuation notices. But after years of inconclusive research, only a determined few of these investigators are still engaged in the effort to predict earthquakes, as federal support shifts to general studies designed to minimize quake aftereffects.

"It isn't as easy as we thought it was going to be 15 years ago," says Jim Savage, a seismologist with the Menlo Park office of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which directs earthquake research. "I think it's possible to predict earthquakes, but it will require more basic research before we know for certain."

Now, the leading earthquake prediction experiment in the United States, coordinated by USGS, which involves intense scrutiny of a single California fault, is being reviewed by a panel of independent seismologists...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?