Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Italian Earthquake Prediction Court Ruling

Normally this blog tries to keep from running two posts about the same general topic on back-to-back days. Today will be an exception given developments in Italy during the past 48-hours concerning earthquakes.  As previously mentioned on this blog (referenced article: Earthquake Damage: Are Bad Maps to Blame?), some researchers have been investigating the idea that seismic risk has been poorly communicated to urban planners because current mapping efforts fail to properly portray those risks. On Monday, an Italian court took it one very large step further by convicting seven seismologists of manslaughter for their failure to adequately warn residents of the central Italy town of L'Aquila prior to a devastating earthquake in April 2009 that killed 300 people. That verdict has triggered a worldwide outcry from the scientific community and caused four Italian government disaster experts to resign in protest.  Links below will provide more information:

Comment: I don't have a clue when it comes to the Italian legal system, but by any reasonable measure it appears to me this is a complete travesty of justice.  In support of that point is the report by a panel of international experts commissioned by the Italian government after this event which clearly states: 
....earthquake generation is a very complex process occurring in an underground environment that is very difficult to observe. Given the current state of scientific knowledge, individual large earthquakes cannot be reliably predicted in future intervals of years or less. In other words, reliable and skillful deterministic earthquake prediction is not yet possible.
So why would anyone believe the convicted individuals should have been able to predict the deadly earthquake?  More importantly, who's next?  A meteorologist who predicts the next day will be sunny, only to have storms roll in and somebody gets killed by lightening at a picnic?  This issue is a biggie - so please consider sharing your thoughts on the subject on MnGeo Emergency Preparedness Committee's LinkedIn discussion board. Click here to view.   

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