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New Zealand Science Teacher


The big one: progress made in earthquake forecasting

New earthquake forecasting methods could help us prepare for the next big one, two Victoria University of Wellington academics say.

earthquakeProfessor Martha Savage and Associate Professor Simon Lamb from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences say scientists are thinking seriously about new methods to track seismic activity.

“There is now the very real possibility of making improved forecasts of the likelihood and potential size of future earthquakes by combining our understanding of why earthquakes occur in the first place with an increasing ability to accurately monitor changes in the Earth,” says Associate Professor Lamb.

“A better public understanding of earthquake phenomena could save lives. It’s important for the public to understand the limitations of what science is capable of when it comes to forecasting earthquakes, because when they happen the effects can be devastating.”

The current understanding of earthquakes will be explored in an upcoming public talk at Victoria University by two international experts.

Dr Kelin Wang, Research Scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, and Dr Jeanne Hardebeck, Research Geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey, will discuss why we have earthquakes, why they occur in certain areas, the different types of earthquakes, and great earthquakes since 2004.

The talk will also look at earthquake triggers and stress interactions and the implications for forecasting earthquakes. This will include a discussion of the Canterbury earthquakes in this context.

The talk will conclude with an opportunity for questions to a panel including Professor Savage, Dr Wang, Dr Hardebeck, GNS Science seismologist Caroline Holden and University of Otago Professor Mark Stirling.

Professor Savage says North America’s seismic hazard assessment is among the best in the world.

“The two North American experts will be able to provide some valuable insights. New Zealand’s geological makeup means nowhere in the country is immune from the possibility of damaging earthquakes, so the more people know, the better.”

The talk is being held as part of a three-day workshop sponsored by the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and organised by Associate Professor Lamb and Professor Savage. The workshop brings together local and international scientists who are developing techniques to quantify and analyse the state of stress at the edges of tectonic plates in order to find new ways to assess the hazard of future earthquakes.

What: Free public talk ‘Earthquakes—are we prepared for the next big one?’

When: 6pm, Thursday 26 May

Where: Memorial Theatre, Level 2, Student Union Building, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington

RSVP: Email rsvp@vuw.ac.nz with 'earthquake lecture' in the subject line or phone 04-463 7458

For more information contact Samantha Fisher on 04-463 5105 or samantha.fisher@vuw.ac.nz

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