Skip to Content

TTU’s Luna: Seismic Technology Better, Earthquakes Hard To Predict

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
TTU’s Luna: Seismic Technology Better, Earthquakes Hard To Predict

Even with major growth in research and technology, earthquakes are difficult to understand and even harder to predict.

Japan’s southern peninsula rocked by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake Monday morning. The death toll has risen to 62, and counting. Tennessee Tech Earth Sciences Department Chair Jeannette Luna said while we can identify where seismic events may happen, it is almost impossible to predict when.

“The areas of research that are the most active right now are trying to understand the magnitude of earthquakes and when, exactly, they could happen,” Luna said. “So the way that we’re trying to do that is measuring the stress on a fault line, and the area that’s actually leading this research is Japan.”

Luna said it is important for young people to continue to learn more about seismology. She said Tech helps students understand the phenomenon and learn how to mitigate the risks of these disasters. She said often, the greatest dangers of an earthquake are the associated disasters and aftermath.

“In Japan for example, when they have an earthquake, there is also a concern about tsunamis that result from that plate movement,” Luna said. “So, we need to not only understand when and where earthquakes could happen but then also how much water might be displaced and whether or not it could cause something like a tsunami.”

She said part of the difficulty is the lack of trends that can be tracked. She said tectonic plate movement is a natural process that does not allow for accurate guesses about when those shifts might create seismic activity.

“Where we tend to see earthquakes when they do happen in the U.S. is across that west coast line,” Luna said. “That’s because of the plate tectonic location. There are active plates on the west coast that we don’t necessarily have here on the east coast.”

Luna said closer to home, there is extensive debate about whether the New Madrid fault line that passes through Memphis is still active or not. Luna said the last seismic event there was in 1812. She said continued research gives us a better idea of when the Upper Cumberland’s nearest fault line might flare up again.

“In the last couple of decades, we’ve installed a lot of seismometers in areas that we know are seismically active, so for example, in Japan this week, all of that data during that earthquake was recorded on lots of different seismometers, and from that, we can learn more about future earthquakes that might happen,” Luna said.


The post TTU’s Luna: Seismic Technology Better, Earthquakes Hard To Predict appeared first on News Talk 94.1/AM 1600.