there other methods, or combinations of methods, besides monitoring electromagnetic signals, that you also think show promise for predicting earthquakes?
Marsha: Nobody has ever claimed reproducible success with any other method. There has been somebody from the USGS who was looking at the incidence, I think, of small earthquakes along near Hollaster, and had some success forecasting slightly larger earthquakes. But that section of the fault is fairly anomalous, in that it’s always slipping and moving, where other faults are not doing that. So whether that technique is transferable to other faults is in question, And the man I don’t believe has been doing this for a long enough time to really say that this always happens, but I’m not too sure. I just read one article about it
Let’s put it this way, the USGS at Parkfield has the string gauges.
They’ve got creep meters and lasers down there. They’re hooked into GPS system. You may want to check into the accuracy of my statement here, but they have issued some earthquake warnings down there, and to my knowledge they’ve never been based on readings from their instruments.
They were the result of statistical probabilities based on past earthquakes. Past earthquake activity has statistically been followed by other larger earthquakes. All of the alerts that they have issued have been because there’s already been an earthquake, and not because of instrumentation. You may want to check me on that, because I’m not privy to all of their data. But I know that’s true for a very high percentage, if not all .
David: If I gave you all the funding and manpower that you needed, what type prediction system would you ideally set up?
Marsha: Ah. Boy, that’s a great question. Well, I would use it to first of all deploy a lot more sensors. Probably all over the western U.S. to start, and all over parts of the world.
David: Right now you’re just measuring in California?
Marsha: California and vicinities. I go up a little bit into Oregon, especially the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest, just offshore.
Occasionally we pick up something around the Vancouver Island area, but it’s not reliable like California. We need much more staffing, programmers, statisticians, engineers, to really make this system work in a refined way, to refine the system that we have right now. We need a lot more computers, higher speed computers. I’m maxed out on the programming language that I use. I’ve used up the capacity of the programming language and the computer’s. It takes hours to run a forecast now, because I’m using– by modern standards– fairly slow computers, and just software capabilities.
David: Let’s say we were able to put the ideal prediction system into place, now how would California benefit?
Marsha: Mainly by saving lives and property. Most of the deaths that occur in earthquakes are simply because people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you could get people into safer, better places, you would automatically save most of the lives that are lost in an earthquake. At the Japan-U.S. conference I learned that, in California anyway, the freeways killed most of the people, and also some unsafe buildings. In Japan most of the deaths occurred in single-family houses that were not well built, that’s not the case in California, but there are some buildings that are not well built, and people should know about those buildings. The University of California for instance, their buildings are fairly…
Marsha: I guess. And they know it. But those people who work in those buildings would benefit from a reliable earthquake forecast. It would take a highly reliable system, because you’d have to weigh the economics of evacuating, or having people stop work. There’s tremendous economic consequences in taking these measures, So you’d have to get it to the point were it was reliable within hours; a specific day and reliable within hours. And tell people not to come to work. But also tell them what to do. That has to go hand-in-hand with a forecasting system, because if people don’t know what to do they panic, and that could be a major liability. But if people feel that they’re in control, and if they have something to do that they feel they can mitigate the circumstance, then they get busy and do it. Then you don’t have this, for the most part, these Panic factors.
David: Take the day off work and celebrate with an earthquake party.
Marsha: Great. I think that’s a wonderful idea. Yes, not going to work, taking alternative routes, avoiding, on your way to wherever you do have to go. Filling your bathtub with water, for instance, is another thing.
Sometimes it takes months to get water back. Sometimes it takes weeks, but if you do have spare water on hand, you’re all the better off for it. You certainly won’t mitigate a month’s worth of a lack of water with a bathtub, but it’ll certainly be very helpful in the first few days after an earthquake. Because systems do get in place; maybe a week later they’ll have systems bringing in water and so on. But in the first few days you’ll have to figure you’re on your own.
So that can save lives and property. It all depends so much where you are in relation to the earthquake, and how badly you’re damaged. If you’re in a place where you’re on the periphery, you might benefit from watering your landscape, for instance. Then if your water goes out for a few days, you’ve saved probably thousands of dollars worth of landscaping. If you’re right at the epicenter, well, forget it. But there are just numerous things to do mainly to get people out of harm’s way, and to get emergency response teams into the area.
You can bring emergency response teams into an area, or have them on standby. You could bring equipment in. You can bring supplies in advance of the earthquake. So much depends on timing right after an earthquake.
If you have somebody who’s bleeding, and you get to them with a few minutes or hours, you could save their life, But if they sit there for three days then it’s fatal. So to have some control over the timing and access to supplies. Fires– to bring in mutual aid in advance would be very beneficial in saving property, and most of the damage. A lot of the damage in dollars is due to fires, and not directly to the earthquake.
And to have people do some fire damage mitigation before the earthquake.
They could shut off their gas supplies. But that’s pretty drastic, and you have to have a very highly reliable system in order to take those drastic measures. You could close down bridges, and not have people in high-rise buildings. But it could just save billions of dollars, especially in the fire mitigation, and literally thousands of lives.
David: What are you currently working on?
Marsha: It’s very mundane. I’m working on getting some marketing material together. I’m in the position that I have so many ideas that I want to test and I want to do. My head is just full of ideas, and it’s tremendously frustrating because working in such a small capacity there’s just no way that I can try to implement all of them. So I just kind of plod along, and test one idea after another. I have a huge backlog of ideas on how I might make the system better.
I write all of my own software, and to test and implement these ideas it usually requires writing another piece of software, and then after I’ve done that then I’ve got to test it, and see if that was a good or a bad idea. There are always some of each. So that’s mainly what I do is I produce forecasts. That takes two days a week, and the rest of the time, the other five days, I usually work on weekends, I spend in development, and most of the activity is writing or running software.
There are three levels of people who are research supporters: personal, small business, and corporate. The personal, which receives one five-page forecast every week is $30 for the month. Small business contributors are $150 a month because they cover more people. For the corporate we ask $1000 a month.
Marsha Adams can be reached at:
Time Research Institute
P.O. Box 620198
Woodside, CA 94062