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SBU Study: Geoscientists Develop Earthquake Prediction Model

Numerical model explains link between earthquakes and the forces that cause them.

A pair of Stony Brook University geoscientists has authored a paper on a numerical model they devised that will have implications on the long-term predictions of earthquakes, the university announced this week.

Professor William E. Holt and postdoctoral associate Attreyee Ghosh developed a numerical way to explain the stresses that act on the Earth's tectonic plates, both at the plate boundaries – which is where most earthquakes happen – and in the plate interiors – a much less understood cause of earthquakes.

Their paper, "Plate Motions and Stresses from Global Dynamic Models," was published Feb. 17 in the journal Science.

Holt stressed that while their model cannot predict earthquakes in a short-term capacity, "it can help at better understanding or forecasting earthquakes over longer time spans. Nobody can yet predict, but ultimately given a better understanding of the forces within the system, one can develop better forecast models."

Their model is based on data from Global Positioning System measurements, a network of global seismometers, and other and other measurements based on plate boundary zones in the Earth's crust. They compared these measurements with output from their own model, which Holt said allowed them to "test the completeness of the model."

"If you take into account the effects of topography and all density variations within the plates – the earth’s crust varies in thickness depending on where you are – if you take all that into account, together with the mantle convection system, you can do a good job explaining what is going on at the surface," Holt said in a statement.

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