Artificial intelligence to predict earthquakes

In news

Scientists have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system to successfully predict earthquakes, an advance that may help prepare for natural disasters and potentially save lives.

Why it was needed?

According to global statistics, from 2010 to 2015 over 260,633 people died in different parts of the world due to earthquake.

One of the most destructive natural disasters, Earthquake, has claimed numerous lives in the past. According to global statistics, from 2010 to 2015 over 260,633 people died in different parts of the world due to earthquake.

How it works?

  • Researchers from University of Cambridge in the UK and Boston University in the US studied the interactions among earthquakes, precursor quakes and faults, with the hope of developing a method to predict earthquakes.
  • Using a lab-based system that mimics real earthquakes, they used machine learning techniques to analyse the acoustic signals coming from the ‘fault’ as it moved and search for patterns.
  • Researchers used steel blocks to closely mimic the physical forces at work in a real earthquake, and also records the seismic signals and sounds that are emitted.
  • This is the first time that machine learning has been used to analyse acoustic data to predict when an earthquake will occur, long before it does, so that plenty of warning time can be given — it is incredible what machine learning can do.
  • Machine learning enables the analysis of datasets too large to handle manually and looks at data in an unbiased way that enables discoveries to be made, researchers added.

Basics

What is an earthquake?

labeled fault

An earthquake is what happens when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another. The surface where they slip is called the fault or fault plane. The location below the earth’s surface where the earthquake starts is called the hypocenter, and the location directly above it on the surface of the earth is called the epicenter.

 

What causes earthquakes and where do they happen?

Earth cross-section

The earth has four major layers: the inner core, outer core, mantle and crust. (figure 2) The crust and the top of the mantle make up a thin skin on the surface of our planet. But this skin is not all in one piece – it is made up of many pieces like a puzzle covering the surface of the earth. (figure 3) Not only that, but these puzzle pieces keep slowly moving around, sliding past one another and bumping into each other. We call these puzzle pieces tectonic plates, and the edges of the plates are called the plate boundaries. The plate boundaries are made up of many faults, and most of the earthquakes around the world occur on these faults. Since the edges of the plates are rough, they get stuck while the rest of the plate keeps moving. Finally, when the plate has moved far enough, the edges unstick on one of the faults and there is an earthquake.

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