Earthquake Prediction Game

Author: Matthew A. Mabey, Assistant Professor of Geology, Brigham Young University, P.O. Box 24698, S 385 ESC, Provo, UT 84602, phone: (801) 378-5248, fax: (801) 378-8143, 
Provided by the Oregon Dept. of Geology and Mineral Industries

The next time you get together with your friends or at the next coffee break you can really impress people. You can make earthquake predictions and be 100% accurate, here's how.

First you have to realize that there are three components to an earthquake prediction. Those three components answer the question, When? Where? and How Big? So here are the 4 earthquakes which you can predict for your friends and acquaintances.

  1. There will be a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake in Los Angeles. (The when is just sometime in the future and you probably mean the Los Angeles region, but when that earthquake happens those details won't matter).
  2. There will be an earthquake in Japan next month. (The size is left unstated but if pressed say a big one. If pressed further say at least a magnitude 4 and consider getting some less picky friends).
  3. There will be an earthquake of at least magnitude 6 in the next 2 weeks. (The where is left unstated but somewhere on earth is the answer. What do they want, you're new at this).
  4. There will be an earthquake in southern California in the next 48 hours. (It could be any size, it is just going to happen).

Then just sit back and wait. In two days your skeptical friends may call you. You will probably have had to contact the various seismic research organizations in California to find out exactly where and how big it was because it likely won't be big enough to make the news. Trust me it will have happened. In two weeks they'll start thinking, maybe this is for real. In a month they'll really be pressing you for your secret and when that earthquake hits Los Angeles they'll be on the phone for sure.

This is a harmless game really, isn't it? What could possibly go wrong? If the earthquake is actually in, for example, Palm Springs that is close enough to Los Angeles to take credit. I mean, after all, Scotts Mills is close enough to Portland to count. Is two weeks or a month (or two or three) too long to sleep in a tent in your back yard in order to be safe from a big quake?

What do those magnitude numbers mean anyway? So what if the Coast Guard misunderstands what you mean by big and thinks you mean BIG enough to require them to gas up and provision their boats. An earthquake happened as you said it would, they should have known that you meant a moderate, ML=5.6 earthquake on the eastern edge of the Willamette Valley that would in no way affect their activities.

What if you're wrong? Well, you ve only got to answer to the few people you told ahead of time. You can still use the game on the next group. If you're right, get in touch with the press, your friends will back you up.

By the way, refuse to talk about the dozens of magnitude 5, 6, and 7 earthquakes that happen each month that you didn't predict with your super-sensitive, scientific technique. What does it matter if you miss a few, as long as you are 100% right ? After all, the Chinese saved lives in 1975 by getting one earthquake prediction right, isn't that comforting to the over 250,000 people who died in an unpredicted Chinese earthquake in 1976? What do those so-called experts really mean when they say it's impossible to reliably and specifically predict earthquakes?

Here s how it works:


  • Every year there are about:
    • 6,200 magnitude 4 to 4.9 earthquakes,
    • 800 magnitude 5 to 5.9 earthquakes,
    • 120 magnitude 6 to 6.9 earthquakes,
    • 18 magnitude 7 to 7.9 earthquakes, world-wide but these are concentrated in a few narrow regions of the world (source USGS-NEIC). It is that simple.

    So get your own 72-hour emergency kit together, bolt that hot water heater to the wall, establish a family plan, know to duck cover and hold on . Now you can sit back and relax because you can predict earthquakes.