Real-time forecasts of tomorrow's earthquakes in California

Nature. 2005 May 19;435(7040):328-31. doi: 10.1038/nature03622.


Despite a lack of reliable deterministic earthquake precursors, seismologists have significant predictive information about earthquake activity from an increasingly accurate understanding of the clustering properties of earthquakes. In the past 15 years, time-dependent earthquake probabilities based on a generic short-term clustering model have been made publicly available in near-real time during major earthquake sequences. These forecasts describe the probability and number of events that are, on average, likely to occur following a mainshock of a given magnitude, but are not tailored to the particular sequence at hand and contain no information about the likely locations of the aftershocks. Our model builds upon the basic principles of this generic forecast model in two ways: it recasts the forecast in terms of the probability of strong ground shaking, and it combines an existing time-independent earthquake occurrence model based on fault data and historical earthquakes with increasingly complex models describing the local time-dependent earthquake clustering. The result is a time-dependent map showing the probability of strong shaking anywhere in California within the next 24 hours. The seismic hazard modelling approach we describe provides a better understanding of time-dependent earthquake hazard, and increases its usefulness for the public, emergency planners and the media.