AUG 30, 2018 6:50 AM PDT

New technology helps better detect earthquake aftershocks

New research published in Nature sheds light on a recent development in seismology: scientists are now able to use machines to determine where aftershocks may occur. Aftershocks occur after the main quake hits, though they can often be almost as severe as the original earthquake. Discovering this new technique will help deepen our knowledge of earthquake behavior so that we can implement better safety management practices.

"If you think about making forecasts of earthquakes," says study co-author Brendan Meade of Harvard University, "you want to do three things; you want to predict when they're going to be, you want to say something about how large they're going to be and about where they're going to be. What we wanted to do is to tackle the last leg of this problem - that is where aftershocks are going to be."

The neural network used data from aftershocks from the the 2011 8.9 magnitude quake off north-eastern Japan.Photo: ABC

In order to do so, a team of scientists collaborated to train a neural network to recognize aftershock patterns. The machine combines data from over 100,000 earthquakes and aftershocks to predict specific patterns that result in real-world aftershocks. Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the machine learning technique is how it mimics the human brain’s neural networks.

BBC News explains concisely: “So rather than putting data about the main earthquake through a set of calculations, which is how aftershocks are currently forecast, the network had the processing power to explore many possible pathways.” Such an adaptive network will hopefully be able to predict which regions close to a fault will experience aftershocks following a quake.

One goal stemming from the research is to be able to integrate the machine learning technique with quake systems that are already in place, like the US west coast's ShakeAlert early warning system. This though is still some time away.

Though the aspirations for this research are high, the authors of the study warn that, realistically, much more investigation is first needed. "We're quite far away from having this be useful in any operational sense at all," says lead author Dr. DeVries. "We view this as a very motivating first step."

Sources: BBC News, Nature

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 20, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Why the Weddell Sea is warming five times faster than the rest of the ocean
OCT 20, 2020
Why the Weddell Sea is warming five times faster than the rest of the ocean
New research published in the Journal of Climate finds that the Weddell Sea in Antarctica is warming five times fas ...
NOV 21, 2020
Earth & The Environment
The first ever global bee diversity map
NOV 21, 2020
The first ever global bee diversity map
A study reported in the journal Current Biology showcases the first global map of bee diversity. Designed by a coll ...
DEC 07, 2020
Microbiology
Ocean Microbes Live At the Boiling Point
DEC 07, 2020
Ocean Microbes Live At the Boiling Point
There are some very extreme environments on our planet, and it seems that microbes have been able to colonize many of th ...
JAN 22, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Indigneous lands represent more than just conservation opportunities
JAN 22, 2021
Indigneous lands represent more than just conservation opportunities
We’ve heard it before: the lands occupied and stewarded by Indigenous peoples are crucial biodiversity hotspots. N ...
JAN 23, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Icelandic sediment holds clues for early Martian climate
JAN 23, 2021
Icelandic sediment holds clues for early Martian climate
New research conducted by scientists from Rice University aims to investigate places on Mars that harbor similar geologi ...
JAN 30, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Invasive species reduce water resources in Ethiopia
JAN 30, 2021
Invasive species reduce water resources in Ethiopia
An invasive evergreen tree, known as Prosopis juliflora, is quite the thirsty species. Prosopis has taken over large swa ...
Loading Comments...