Up to now, there was no way of predicting whether a powerful earthquake was likely to be followed by one of even greater magnitude. But the results of a study recently published in Nature by Laura Gulia and Stefan Wiemer from the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) at ETH Zurich awaken hopes that we will soon be able to do just that, in real time.
Such a scientific discovery would have far-reaching consequences for civil protection, enabling more reliable decisions about evacuating people, allowing rescue workers to target their efforts accordingly, and permitting the implementation of measures to secure critical infrastructure, such as power stations.
Whereas most major earthquakes are not preceded by foreshocks, they are always followed by thousands of aftershocks, whose frequency and magnitude fade over time. However, in some cases, a major earthquake is followed by an even more powerful one. This was what happened in the sequences of earthquakes that hit Central Italy in 2016 or Ridgecrest, California (U.S.) in July 2019.