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A multidirectional view of earthquake phenomena

A multidirectional view of earthquake phenomena


In December 1993, C. P. Rajendran and his wife Kosala traveled to Desamangalam, near Wadakancherry in Kerala, to allay the fears of villagers whose lives had been turned upside down by a long procession of aftershocks in the aftermath of a relatively harmless earthquake. Land prices fell dramatically, the men of the village could find no suitors, and people slept outdoors for months.

After arriving at the village, the couple were congratulated on a makeshift platform. Then, when Rajendran drew the villagers' attention to the decreasing frequency of aftershocks, advising them not to be too disturbed, the ground shook again, perhaps ironically.

The young, uncertain science of earthquake forecasting is one of several topics addressed by the country's leading seismologists in their new book, The Roaring Earth: The Story of Indian Earthquakes. “To date, there are no models that can predict the time, location, and magnitude of future earthquakes. Neither their causative factors nor their interactions can be observed, unlike atmospheric processes that can be monitored,” say the authors.

The mercurial nature of earthquakes is perhaps best illustrated by the 1993 Parkfield experiment, for which hundreds of geologists besieged the small California town. Parkfield lies on the San Andreas Fault, one of the world's largest faults, has experienced regular moderate earthquakes for 22 years since 1857, and has been the site of an earthquake prediction experiment led by the USGS. But nothing notable happened that year. Instead, the earthquake occurred 11 years later in 2004.

The Rajendrans, who discovered their shared passion for Earth sciences in the late 1980s while pursuing post-doctoral studies in Charleston in the US, have intimate knowledge of the Earth and the major disturbances that occur there. In the crumbling earth, they tell their story unconsciously, at a rapid pace, moving between sweeping views of the fundamental forces of nature at work beneath our feet, and through paleontology, which reconstructs the history of earthquake activity before automated recording began, uncovering evidence of ancient disturbances that could It portends future seismic risks.




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