Predicting Earthquakes Still Elusive

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Predicting Earthquakes Still Elusive

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LOS ANGELES - The monster earthquake that turned San Francisco into smoky rubble a century ago also gave rise to seismology, but scientists still can't predict when the next Big One will pop.

Several mysteries must be unraveled before seismologists can forecast a potential killer shock with the precision that meteorologists have in pinpointing a hurricane's strength days beforehand.

At the heart of the problem are two fundamental questions: How does an earthquake begin? What causes it to stop?

"If we can find a magic signal, some telltale sign, then maybe we'll know when an earthquake is coming," said Tom Jordan, the director of the Southern California Earthquake Center in Los Angeles.

Before 1906, science had only faint ideas of the forces behind temblors. Three days after San Francisco's powerful jolt tore open the Earth's surface along a 300-mile stretch of the 800-mile-long San Andreas fault, scientists set out to map the fault, which cuts through California like a scar.

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Scientists are doing studies to determine if earthquakes possess certain predictable behavior and characteristics. They are also mapping out histories of earthquake prone areas. Eventually they may be able to predict quakes and save lives but the buildings will still fall.
By YCON: posted on 16-4-2006

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