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Last Updated on Sunday, 02 May 2010 19:08
Published on Friday, 25 February 2005 00:00


A reliable and accurate way of predicting earthquakes would obviously be of enormous social and economic benefit. More than once, hopes of a workable prediction scheme have been raised and dashed. Not only seismologists, but other scientists and people with no specialist training at all, have come up with ideas and claims.

But what should public officials, policy makers, and the vulnerable public at large make of it all? How do you weigh up the claims? Do the public think establishment scientists are letting them down and being too dismissive of less conventional ideas? On the other hand, if earthquakes are fundamentally unpredictable, as some scientists suggest, should they not be saying so more forcefully? Then again, since any 'official' recognition of an earthquake prediction could generate alarm with effects every bit as damaging as an earthquake itself, what is the right way to handle predictions?

In November, a special meeting in the Royal Astronomical Society's monthly programme will address these questions, bringing together both physical and social scientists. International experts in the subject, from Japan and California as well as the UK and Europe, will examine how to judge earthquake prediction schemes and how such assessments can best be communicated to decision-makers and the public.

The meeting is on Thursday the 7th and Friday the 8th of November 1996, at the Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London.

A provisional programme is attached. Media representatives are welcome to attend any of the sessions as observers. Please identify yourselves at the reception desk. To be put in touch with any of the speakers, or for further advance information (up to 5th November) on the subject of the meeting and the arrangements, contact the organizers:


Dr Russ Evans or Dr David Booth, British Geological Survey, Edinburgh. Phone: 0131-667-1000; fax: 0131-668-4140/ 0131 667 1877; E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Note: On Wednesday to Friday 6th-8th November contact Drs Evans and Booth via the Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London. Phone: 0171-734 4582 or 3307; fax 0171-494 0166


Royal Astronomical Society/Joint Association for Geophysics Discussion Meeting


7 & 8 November 1996 at the Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London

Assessment schemes for earthquake prediction

Thursday 7th November

Morning Session, Chairman: Dr David C Booth (British Geological Survey, Edinburgh)


Focus 1 - Case studies

10.30 a.m. Dr Yuji Enomoto (Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, Tsukuba, Japan): Earthquake Lightning - a clue of a possible source for seismic electromagnetic signals


10.50 a.m. Professor Yukio Fujinawa (National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention, Tsukuba, Japan): Occurrence probabilities of anomalous electromagnetic phenomena in relation to earthquakes


11.10 a.m. Dr Filippos Vallianatos (Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Chania, Crete): An earthquake prediction scheme based on electromagnetic anomalies. Recent results.


11.30 a.m. Professor Friedemann Wenzel (Geophysical Institute, University of Karlsruhe, Germany): Strong earthquakes: a challenge for geosciences and earthquake engineering


Followed by discussion


Focus 2 - Methodologies for earthquake prediction

12.00 noon Professor S. Crampin (University of Edinburgh): The possibility of forecasting earthquakes


12.30 p.m. LUNCH


Afternoon Session, Chairman: Dr Russ Evans (British Geological Survey, Edinburgh)


1.30 p.m. Dr Ian Main (University of Edinburgh): Is there a physical basis for reliable earthquake prediction?


1.50 p.m. Professor Peter C Leary (University of Edinburgh): Broadband borehole logs, critical state crustal rock and the implausibility of reliable earthquake prediction


Followed by discussion


Focus 3 - Methodologies for assessment of earthquake prediction schemes

2.20 p.m. Dr David C Booth (British Geological Survey, Edinburgh): The IASPEI evaluation procedure for earthquake precursors


2.40 p.m. Professor Feodor M Borodich (Glasgow Caledonian University): Renormalisation schemes to earthquake prediction


3.00 p.m. Professor Philip B Stark (University of California, Berkeley): The null hypothesis


3.30 p.m. TEA


4.00 p.m. Keynote lecture Professor Yan Y Kagan (University of California, Los Angeles): Earthquake prediction: scientific challenges and validation of prediction schemes


Followed by discussion


Friday 8th November

Morning Session, Chairman: Dr Russ Evans (British Geological Survey, Edinburgh)


Focus 4 - Communication and conflict I, scientific issues

10.00 a.m. Dr Pascal Bernard (Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris): From precursors to prediction: a few recent cases from Greece


10.30 a.m. Keynote lecture Professor Francesco Mulargia (University of Rome): The pitfalls of retrospective identification of 'precursors'


11.30 a.m. Keynote lecture Professor Robert J. Geller (University of Tokyo): Earthquake Prediction: Science, Politics, and Publicity


Followed by discussion


12.30 p.m. LUNCH


Afternoon Session, Chairman: Dr David C Booth (British Geological Survey, Edinburgh)

Focus 5 - Communication and conflict II, public understanding1.30 p.m. Dr Russ Evans (British Geological Survey, Edinburgh): Why doesn't the public believe the experts?

2.00 p.m. Professor Anthony Hallam (University of Birmingham): The mass extinction controversy: scientists and the media

2.30 p.m. Dr Steven Miller (University College London): Earthquake prediction and the media: a case study in public understanding of science (provisional)

Followed by discussion

Meeting closes at 3.30 p.m.

Contributions by the following speakers are subject to confirmation 

Dr George Purcaru (Frankfurt): Theoretical and empirical foundations of forecasting earthquakes, and successful forecasts

Dr Stathis Stiros (Athens) How useful is earthquake prediction in Greece?


Issued by:
Dr Jacqueline Mitton, RAS Public Relations Officer
Phone: (0)1223-564914
FAX: (0)1223-572892
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.