Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin have come up with a clever computer program that can predict earthquakes. In a seven-month experiment conducted in China, this program correctly guessed the occurrence of 70% of earthquakes a week before they actually happened. This exciting development has raised our hopes that we may one day be able to use this technology to reduce the impact of earthquakes on our lives and economies.
So, how does this program work? Well, the scientists trained it to examine real-time data about earthquakes as they were happening. Then, they paired this data with information from previous earthquakes. The program was designed to look for unusual patterns or changes in the data, like little “bumps” that could indicate an earthquake might be on the way. It’s like having a smart assistant that can spot warning signs and give us a heads-up about potential earthquakes.
This technology could be a game-changer in earthquake-prone areas, as it might allow us to take preventive measures before an earthquake strikes, potentially saving lives and reducing damage to buildings and infrastructure. While it’s still in the early stages, this AI algorithm shows great promise for the future in our ongoing efforts to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.
The results of this experiment were quite impressive. The AI program provided a weekly forecast, and it accurately predicted 14 earthquakes that occurred within approximately 200 miles of where it had estimated they would happen. Not only that, but it also came remarkably close to predicting the strength of these earthquakes.
While the AI did miss one earthquake and gave eight false warnings, the overall performance is still quite promising. It’s important to note that this approach may not work as well in different locations with varying geological conditions and earthquake patterns. However, what’s crucial here is that this research represents a significant milestone in the field of earthquake forecasting driven by artificial intelligence. It opens up new possibilities and gives us hope for better earthquake prediction and mitigation efforts in the future.
“Predicting earthquakes is the holy grail,” said Sergey Fomel, Professor in UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology. “We’re not yet close to making predictions for anywhere in the world, but what we achieved tells us that what we thought was an impossible problem is solvable in principle.”
The findings from the trial are published in the journal Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.
“You don’t see earthquakes coming,” said Alexandros Savvaidis, a senior research scientist who leads the bureau’s Texas Seismological Network Programme (TexNet) — the state’s seismic network.
“It’s a matter of milliseconds, and the only thing you can control is how prepared you are. Even with 70 per cent, that’s a huge result and could help minimise economic and human losses and has the potential to dramatically improve earthquake preparedness worldwide.”
The researchers behind this AI earthquake prediction method used a rather straightforward machine learning approach. They began by providing the AI with a collection of statistical features derived from their understanding of how earthquakes work in terms of physics. Then, they instructed the AI to learn from a database of seismic recordings spanning five years.
Once the AI completed its training, it was able to make its earthquake forecasts. Essentially, it listened to the various sounds and vibrations in the Earth, sifting through the background noise to identify signs that indicated an impending earthquake.
The researchers are optimistic about the potential of this AI, particularly in regions where there are well-established seismic monitoring networks, such as California, Italy, Japan, Greece, Turkey, and Texas. In these places, the AI could enhance its accuracy and provide predictions that are precise enough to pinpoint the location of potential earthquakes within just a few tens of miles. This advancement holds great promise for improving earthquake prediction and preparedness in these earthquake-prone regions.