Natural Hazards

, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 1155–1177 | Cite as

Earthquake prediction: 20 years of global experiment

  • Vladimir G. KossobokovEmail author
Original Paper


Earthquake professionals have for many decades recognized the benefits to society from reliable earthquake predictions, but uncertainties regarding source initiation, rupture phenomena, and accuracy of both the timing and magnitude of the earthquake occurrence have oftentimes seemed either very difficult or impossible to overcome. The problem is that most of these methods cannot be adequately tested and evaluated either because of (a) lack of a precise definition of “prediction” and/or (b) shortage of data for meaningful statistical verification. This is not the case for the pattern recognition algorithm M8 designed in 1984 for prediction of great, Magnitude 8, earthquakes, hence its name. By 1986, the algorithm was rescaled for applications aimed at smaller magnitude earthquakes, down to M5+ range, and since then it has become a useful tool for systematic monitoring of seismic activity in a number of test seismic regions worldwide. After confirmed predictions of both the 1988 Spitak (Armenia) and the 1989 Loma Prieta (California) earthquakes, a “rigid test” to evaluate the efficiency of the intermediate-term middle-range earthquake prediction technique has been designed. Since 1991, each half-year, the algorithm M8 alone and in combination with its refinement MSc has been applied in a real-time prediction mode to seismicity of the entire Earth, and this test outlines, where possible, the areas in the two approximations where magnitude 8.0+ and 7.5+ earthquakes are most likely to occur before the next update. The results of this truly global 20-year-old experiment are indirect confirmations of the existing common features of both the predictability and the diverse behavior of the Earth’s naturally fractal lithosphere. The statistics achieved to date prove (with confidence above 99 %) rather high efficiency of the M8 and M8-MSc predictions limited to intermediate-term middle- and narrow-range accuracy. These statistics support the following general conclusions—(1) precursory seismic patterns do exist; (2) the size of an area where precursory seismic patterns show up is much larger than that of the source zone of the incipient target earthquake; (3) many precursory seismic patterns appear to be similar, even in regions of fundamentally different tectonic environments; and (4) some precursory seismic patterns are analogous to those in advance of extreme catastrophic events in other complex nonlinear systems (e.g., magnetic storms, solar flares, “starquakes”, etc.)—that are of high importance for further searches of the improved earthquake forecast/prediction algorithms and methods.


Extreme events Statistics Forecast Prediction Earthquakes Precursory patterns 



The author is indebted to Vladimir I. Keilis-Borok, John H. Healy, James W. Dewey, and Stewart W. Smith for invaluable discussions and comments at the design of the earthquake prediction algorithms and their global testing. Special thanks to Dr. James L. Bela for suggestions that have helped improving the text.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Russian Academy of SciencesInstitute of Earthquake Prediction Theory and Mathematical GeophysicsMoscowRussian Federation
  2. 2.Institut de Physique du Globe de ParisParisFrance

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