Is it possible to predict earthquakes? And what to do about that?

Yossi Schwartz, the ISL the section of the RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 14.02.2023

We do not know as yet how many people died from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria but we know that the governments of both states are guilty of criminal negligence and that there are scientific methods for predicting approximately time and location for the coming earthquake.

While the official scientists in the Western imperialist state deny that it is possible to predict the arrival of earthquakes, the question is do they try to hide the responsibility of their government by denying the possibility to predict earthquakes? We saw it very clearly about their role in the Covid-19.

The Panel on Earthquake Prediction of the Committee on Seismology in the National Research Council’s Assembly of Mathematical and Physical Sciences of the USA stated in 1998:

“The members of the Panel on Earthquake Prediction have reviewed the major research efforts in earthquake prediction by investigators of all countries. The following statements summarize the Panel’s views.

1  Earthquake prediction holds great potential for saving lives, reducing property damage, enhancing the safety of critical facilities, and helping make possible more-rapid restoration of normal living after an earthquake.

2 Anomalous physical phenomena precursory to some earthquakes have

Been clearly identified.

3 The physical nature of precursory phenomena is complex, and current models to explain them are crude; improvement of these models will require considerable effort in the field and laboratory, as well as in theoretical studies.

4 Some small earthquakes have been predicted in a scientifically credible way, and most researchers are optimistic that we will eventually be successful in predicting larger earthquakes as well.

5 Of about ten types of recognizable phenomena thought to be precursors to earthquakes, some may, in fact, be due to other causes and yield false alarms. Successful routine prediction will probably require the use of several techniques.

6 At present, the ability to detect and locate an impending earthquake requires a dense distribution of instruments in the quake area. Improved observational networks in areas of high earthquake probability are mandatory if we are to gain the fundamental knowledge on which to build an effective earthquake-prediction program.

7 Predictions of earthquakes should specify time, magnitude, place, and probability. However, even a statement that does not specify time or magnitude, or a statement that an earthquake will not occur in a particular place or at a particular time, would be beneficial.

8 Neither the present state-of-the-art nor the present distribution of instrumentation permits socially useful predictions on a routine basis. Therefore, at this time, an expression such as “area of intensive study,” as used in Japan (See Appendix B), might reflect more accurately the confidence level of interpretations of the observed phenomena in some areas than would an actual prediction.

9 A scientific prediction will probably be made within the next five years for an earthquake of magnitude 5 or greater in California. With appropriate commitment, the routine. Announcement of reliable predictions may be possible within 10 years in well instrumented areas, although large earthquakes may present a particularly difficult problem the apparent public impression that routine prediction of earthquakes is imminent is not warranted by the present level of scientific understanding.

10 Until formal procedures for issuing predictions have been established, predictions made by responsible scientists should be accompanied by sufficient backup data for full evaluation Community

11 During the development of an earthquake-prediction-and-warning capability, there will be unavoidable errors and false alarms. The public must be made aware of this prospect, and the development of any procedure to issue warnings must accommodate it. Even the ultimate system probably will not be infallible.

12 The rate of development of a reliable earthquake-prediction capability operating on a routine basis will depend to a large extent on the amount, rate, and deployment of funding. Progress in improving the state-of-the-art in the early growth period will be particularly

Sensitive to the level of support. The Panel believes that an effective program will require a 10-year commitment of effort, and that a large increase to several times the current annual Federal expenditures would be’ cost effective and would be in the national interest.

13 The scientific and technical aspects of earthquake prediction have advanced to the point at which the development of systems for associated societal response should be addressed promptly in a formal manner. A prediction capability will be of little value if societal response procedures are not formulated concurrently.

14 In a realistic attack on the earthquake-hazard problem, the development of an earthquake-prediction program and the upgrading of earthquake-engineering design and construction are complementary and equally necessary, and should be carried on at the same time” [1]

The Geological Society of London is the UK’s national society for geoscience, providing support to over 12,000 members in the UK and overseas. Founded in 1807, it is the oldest geological society in the world. In their site we find:

“Earthquake forecasting and prediction is an active topic of geological research. Geoscientists are able to identify particular areas of risk and, if there is sufficient information, to make probabilistic forecasts about the likelihood of earthquakes happening in a specified area over a specified period. These forecasts are based on data gathered through global seismic monitoring networks, high-density local monitoring in known risk areas, and geological field work, as well as from historical records. Forecasts are improved as our theoretical understanding of earthquakes grows, and geological models are tested against observation. Long-term forecasts (years to decades) are currently much more reliable than short to medium-term forecasts (days to months)” [2]

Is it true that it is impossible to predict earthquakes?

Let us deal with Soviet science. Of course, the pro-Western imperialists will say that you cannot rely on Soviet scientists. However, Stalinist Russia was the first one to travel in space. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin (9 March 1934 – 27 March 1968) was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut who became the first human to journey into outer space. Soviet eye medicine was more advanced than the West.

There was a need for real knowledge on earthquake precautions and attempts at earthquake prediction were a constant theme in Soviet geophysical research because of considerable earthquake disasters. In June 1971, Pravda published the map of tectonics below the USSR.

One of the major earthquake disasters in the USSR occurred at Leninakan, in Armenia, in October 1926. For this reason, Leninakan was chosen for the site of the new Institute of Geophysics and Engineering Seismology. This was not the only such research center in the Soviet Union-there were others like in Sakhalin island in the Kuril-Kamchatka seismic area of the Pacific coast and a team from the Institute of Earth Physics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences were doing field work in the High Pamirs on variations in the electrical resistance of mountain rock to the occurrence of earthquakes. The Soviet scientists recorded the geophysical fields at three observatories-on the Zangezur Ski ridge (the site of the 1968 earthquake) and in central and Northern Armenia. They studied deep structures and seismicity, and also the thermal, electrical, magnetic and gravitational fields, and deformation of the crust of earth. [3]

Thomas O’ Toole of the Washington post on March 6, 1979 wrote on the achievements of Soviet scientists:

“Geologists in the Soviet Union predicted a major earthquake in central Asia the day before it happened Nov. 1, according to reports reaching the U.S. Geological Survey.While it was the second quake forecast a day ahead of time, the Soviet quake may have been the first predicted with the kind of precision preferred by scientists in evaluating the precursors of earthquakes. The Chinese predicted an earthquake the day before it struck Hai Cheng Feb. 5, 1976, evacuating people from homes in the region on Feb. 4.

“What impressed us about the Soviet prediction was the large number of measurements they had over more than a year’s time,” said Dr. Rob Wesson, chief of the Office of Earthquake Studies in the USGS. “Then in mid-October last year they began to see some abrupt changes in seismicity and the day before [Oct. 31] saw even more abrupt changes in water levels” [4]

“That day the water levels in 10 Artesian wells fell suddenly in regions within 100 miles of where the quake’s epicenter was recorded the following day. The water level in a well one mile deep fell abruptly after having risen continuously for weeks” [5]

“Based mainly on the water well data, the Soviets made their prediction the afternoon before the earthquake.” said Dr. David Simpson of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Observatory. “There is a growing belief among geologists that in the final stages before an earthquake there is a general swelling in the earth’s crust that opens up cracks that allow groundwater to seep downward” [6]

“That day the water levels in 10 Artesian wells fell suddenly in regions within 100 miles of where the quake’s epicenter was recorded the following day. The water level in a well one mile deep fell abruptly after having risen continuously for weeks” [7]

Peter Huck on Mon 9 Aug 2004 wrote in the Guardian:

“Last January Russian-born geophysicist Vladimir Keilis-Borok dropped a bombshell in the seismology world by announcing that his multinational research team could forecast earthquakes. “Earthquake prediction is called the Holy Grail of earthquake science, and has been considered impossible by many scientists,” said Professor Keilis-Borok, 82, whose team is based at the University of California Los Angeles. “It is not impossible As evidence, Keilis-Borok said his team of seismologists, and experts in pattern recognition, chaos theory, geodynamics, and statistical physics, had successfully predicted two earthquakes, albeit with wide margins of space and time; a magnitude-8.1 quake located off the Japanese island of Hokkaido on September 26, and the 6.5 Paso Robles temblor that killed two people in California on December 22” [8]

Three days before the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria Dutch seismologist Frank Hoogerbeets, who works for the Solar System Geometry Survey (SSGS) in the Netherlands, predicted the earthquake in Turkey on February 3.

He said: “As I stated earlier, sooner or later this would happen in this region, similar to the years 115 and 526. These earthquakes are always preceded by critical planetary geometry, as we had on 4-5 February.” [9]

Why did so many buildings collapse in Turkey?

“Thousands of people are believed to still be stuck in the debris of collapsed buildings across Turkey’s southeast following Monday’s devastating earthquakes. According to the government, two major tremors and hundreds of aftershocks destroyed at least 6,444 buildings across 10 provinces, killing more than 12,800 people as of Thursday afternoon.

Was it that the two earthquakes – the first at a magnitude of 7.8 and the second at 7.6 – were simply too violent for most buildings to survive? Or that the buildings were not up to modern construction standards? Was there negligence on the part of the authorities?

According to Professor Okan Tuysuz, a geological engineer from Istanbul Technical University, a tragic combination of all of the above led to Monday’s catastrophe.

Sinan Turkkan, civil engineer and president of Turkey’s Earthquake Retrofit Association, agreed. “Not only were the earthquakes extremely forceful, but they also hit in quick succession,” he explained. “Many buildings only received light to medium damage in the first quake but collapsed after the second one.”

While factoring in that tremors at these magnitudes in quick succession would pose a risk to any building, experts underlined that a tragedy on this scale was not in any way inevitable.

“According to official estimates, 6,000 to 7,000 buildings collapsed on Monday. However strong, no earthquake could have caused this much damage if all buildings were up to standard,” Turkkan said.

Yet on Wednesday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended his government’s preparations for and response to the earthquakes during a visit to the disaster zone, saying it was “impossible for anyone to prepare for the scale of the disaster”.

Most of the buildings that collapsed on Monday were constructed before 1999, when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit the Western Marmara region, killing 17,500 people. Since then, the government improved the Turkish seismic design code significantly and in 2008, embarked on an ambitious urban transformation project to prepare Turkey for the next big earthquake.In November 2022, after a magnitude 6 earthquake damaged more than 2,000 buildings in Duzce, northern Turkey, environment and urbanization minister Murat Kurum underlined that the authorities were working towards making every building in the country “earthquake safe by 2035”.“We already rebuilt 3.2 million residences,” Kurum said in a social media post. “250,000 residences across 81 provinces and 992 districts are currently being transformed [to meet current regulations]. 6.6 million Houses and businesses have been audited. 24 million of our citizens are currently living in earthquake-safe abodes.”

These ambitious efforts, however, were not able to prevent the disaster. “On paper, Turkey’s seismic design code is up to global standards – it is actually better than most,” Turkkan said. “In practice, however, the situation is very different.”

The government offered financial incentives but did not make participation in its urban transformation project compulsory. This effectively meant only people who were in a position to make money from rebuilding – people in possession of valuable plots suitable for further development – agreed to demolish their old properties and rebuild according to the latest code. Many did not want to spend money on rebuilding work or reinforcements that did not seem urgent. This is why, experts say, more than 20 years after the Marmara earthquake, Turkey is full of buildings constructed using sub-par materials and long-discredited construction techniques that immediately crumble when faced with a strong tremor” [10]

On Saturday 8 people suspected of damaging buildings were arrested in Turkey. This is an old trick of capitalist and Stalinists governments to save their backs. It is the government of the capitalist class, of the construction private companies that are responsible for the criminal negligence and the condition of living of the exploited classes. It is not the earthquake that kills people. The moving of the earth is not pleasant but not dangerous. People are dying because of the capitalist system. If humanity is to live, capitalism must be killed and replaced by socialism.

To conclude:

1 It is possible to predict earthquakes.

2 The disaster in Turkey and Syria is not only the result of the powerful earthquakes but the conditions of the buildings.

3 The workers and the poor are the victims of the capitalist ruling class that allowed poor construction of building for the workers and poor

4 The renewal projects are good for the construction companies, not for the poor people

5 For humanity to live capitalism must die




[3] NATURE VOL. 237 JUNE 9 1972


[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid




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