Seismologists traditionally believed that large earthquakes follow a regular pattern and occur after the same amount of time.
However, the Earth doesn’t always comply, as earthquakes can sometimes occur sooner or later than expected.
The Northwestern research team of seismologists and statisticians has developed an earthquake probability model
The new model considers the specific order and timing of previous earthquakes instead of just using the average timing of previous earthquakes.
"Considering the full earthquake history, will help us a lot in forecasting when future earthquakes will happen,” said Seth Stein
The study was published recently in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.
The authors of the study are Stein, Northwestern professor Bruce D. Spencer and recent Ph.D. graduates James S. Neely and Leah Salditch.
“Earthquakes behave like an unreliable bus,” said Neely, now at the University of Chicago.
The traditional model, used since a large earthquake in 1906 destroyed San Francisco, assumes that slow motions across the fault build up strain
In other words, a fault has only short-term memory — it “remembers” only the last earthquake and has “forgotten” all the previous ones.
The new model assumes that earthquake faults are smarter — have longer-term memory — than seismologists assumed.