Expert: quakes may be possible to predict

CNC report from Beijing
Added On April 28, 2013

After the second major earthquake to strike Sichuan in five years devastated parts of the province last Saturday... CNC spoke to the deputy director of Columbia University' s Earth Observatory, who says it might be possible to predict major earthquakes.

Arthur Lerner-Lam, deputy director of Columbia University' s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, believes its possible to predict major earthquakes.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) ARTHUR LERNER-LAM, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia Univ.:
"In places where we have a very good understanding of historical earthquake occurrence, we can use that to come up what we all a probabilistic prediction or probabilistic forecast. This doesn't mean that we are able to predict the next event precisely in space and time but over the course of a ten year or twenty year or thirty year period, we might be able to give society some probabilities. The Chinese have been very good at this, in part because they have a very long history of recording earthquakes, something like the United States does not have."

In the last five years, southwest China' s Sichuan Province has been rocked by two major earthquakes.

The most devastating - measuring magnitude 8 - struck Wenchuan County in 2008, killing more than 87,000 people.

Last week, a magnitude 7 quake hit Lushan County, killing at least 196 people.

When asked whether the two quakes are related, the professor said:

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) ARTHUR LERNER-LAM, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia Univ.:
"Ever since the Sichuan earthquake a few years back, the earthquake itself may have recalibrated the Earth' s crust, essentially advanced the possibility or advanced in time the potential for another earthquake to follow. So in some sense the earthquake that just occurred in Lushan could be considered an aftershock or a collateral earthquake, something that was triggered by the reorganization of the stress on the Earth' s crust that occurred a few years ago. Again, this is a frontier area of research and the Chinese are very good at that."

Back in Sichuan, authorities have put an emergency response plan in place against further disasters, like landslides, as the rainy season approaches.

To provide a scientific basis for post-quake relief and reconstruction work, damage assessment has also begun... In the hope of making the quake-hit region safer, in future.