Inadequate earthquake forecasting
Although the regions of greatest seismic activity are clearly defined and although there are scientific theories on what causes earthquakes, it is very rarely possible to forecast the time and place of a destructive earthquake. Moreover, even if such forecasting were possible, although it would reduce the number of lives lost it would not prevent property damage. Hopes raised by some predictions of an end to the era of unforeseen earthquake disasters have been shattered by other forecasts which proved far from accurate. The science of earthquake prediction is still in its infancy, and although scientists have made tremendous strides in their research, there is as yet no failsafe formula to foretell an impending earthquake with absolute accuracy.
Greater scientific knowledge of earthquake risk will not in itself lead to a reduction of earthquake damage or loss of life. Enhanced ability to forecast earthquakes and to give warnings will not necessarily lead to action that reduces vulnerability or exposure to risk, and may increase both. Technological capability to modify earthquake events may, on balance, increase loss potential.
Earthquake prediction is a rapidly emerging scientific field offering great promise for loss reduction. Although accurate predictions of the size (magnitude), time, and location of future earthquakes may still be years away, scientific information needed for making reliable predictions within the next decade are emerging from studies by earth scientists from many different institutions in the USA and in several other countries, including the former Soviet Union, Japan and China.