December 2, 2011
by John Vidale
I made a snarky reference to this in our news box yesterday, but an email from LindaSue chided my glib and shallow dismissal.
The Huffington Post and the BBC, among many others, told readers this week nonsense like "The strange behaviour of animals before earthquakes has often made it seem that nature might know of seismic movements before humans. However, scientists HAVE NOW PROVED IT [my emphasis] with a study of toads in L'Aquila."
The truth is that research has yet to ever prove that animals sense any more than our instruments, and our instruments are not seeing precursors to earthquakes. I could go on at great length, but the simplest way to see the weakness of this claim is to note that there was only one episode described of toads misbehaving, and only one earthquake, which was five days later and 50 miles away - not very strong statistics. Even worse, the big earthquake had a vigorous swarm of smaller earthquakes in the month beforehand, so cause and effect is unclear. Worse still is the unlikely proposed mechanism of a huge cloud of ions rising from the large areas of the ground in the days before the earthquake, for which there is no evidence.
Confounding the confusion is the fact that NASA lends it name to this malarkey. I think purveying nonsense as though it were news leaves the public less well informed than it started, and undercuts the modest and more mundane but true means of mitigating the risks inherent in earthquakes such as the early warning systems I described yesterday.
- Is Mount St. Helens seismicity increasing?
- Warm weather triggers snow avalanches at St. Helens
- Seismic recordings of a gas explosion in North Bend, WA
- Seismic signals generated by the March 22nd Oso Landslide
- Legacy web site content returns
- Ice avalanches on Cascade volcanoes
- A New View On What's Shaking on the Cascade Volcanoes
- Seismic Spectrograms - A new way to look at wiggles
- The final football game analysis
- The Football Game Experiment Continues
- July (1)
- May (1)
- April (1)
- March (2)
- February (3)
- January (4)
- October (1)
- September (1)
- August (1)
- June (1)
- April (3)
- March (4)
- February (1)
- January (2)
- December (1)
- November (2)
- October (3)
- September (1)
- August (3)
- July (2)
- June (4)
- May (4)
- April (2)
- The wech-o-meter takes over all of Cascadia
- Keystone Cops: Italy prosecutes seismologists for failure to predict deadly quake
- UFOs in eastern Washington? No, rather UTEs (Unidentified Terrestrial Events)
- New Sodo Seattle Liquefaction Array Installed
- Why we should constantly watch the deformation of the seafloor
- Mystery chirp near Newberry Volcano
- Planting seismographs causes earthquakes? or maybe ice-quakes?
- Tunneling rumbles south under Capitol Hill
- 15 years of mostly silent magma inflation near Three Sisters, Oregon
- Mount Hood earthquake swarm of Feb 23, 2012
- Web glitches: duplicate (and even triplicate!) earthquakes
- How earthquake magnitude scales work
- Mine blast masquerades as volcanic tremor
- The Spokane Swarm about 10 years ago
- Another hum around Mount St. Helens
- Slow slip: A new kind of earthquake under our feet
- PNSN and social media
- 3am M3.4 earthquake in St. Helens Seismic Zone
- The wrong kind of volcano noise
- Fast chatter on Rainier an hour ago
- Can slush-mageddon trigger earthquakes?
- Rainier Repeating Earthquakes Update and Comparison with Weather Patterns
- 22-minutes drumbeat icequakes(?)
- Mount Rainier popping away
- Repeating Earthquakes on Mount Rainier - are glaciers the culprit?
- Debunking another SEC football myth by the PAC-12
- One year ago, Seattle Seahawks 12th Man Earthquake
- The odds this year of a megaquake on the Pacific Northwest coast
- Is the plague of great earthquakes this decade a sign of increased danger?
- Nile Valley landslide talks to PNSN seismologists
- Good vs evil in central US earthquake hazard analysis
- Why does a volcano scream?
- Predicting big quakes from patterns of little ones
- 1-hour warning for Japanese M9 earthquake?
- Sound Transit train under Interlaken keeps a rollin'
- Invisible changes under the hood at the PNSN
- Sound Transit Tunneling Noise
- "Visionary" toads
- Earthquake early warning in the PNW
- November (1)
- December (13)