Earthquake predictions are false and misleading, as far as scientists are concerned.
But the predictions wield a power on social media that bewilders them. And they worry that people might be acting on baseless claims.
Moreover, they see half a million arguments on social media ahead of them when an article like the one on vice.com comes out.
Today’s “Earthquake conspiracy theorists wreaking havoc during emergencies” has the potential to add to that fervent group of followers, said Graham Kent, chief of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory for the past 10 years. He stresses the difference between a definitive prediction and probability.
The report hits a little close to home just a little over 4 months since Las Vegas felt the July 4 earthquake and July 5 aftershock in Ridgecrest, California. Are people cashing in on our fears with websites and YouTube channels that make money at the expense of others who want dearly to believe there’s a way to know?
Emily Morton with the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno, said science simply cannot predict earthquakes.
“It’s not a possible thing,” she said. “We can get close based on observations, and get close with probability.” But scientists can’t say when an earthquake is likely to strike.
“I wish I could do that, but I can’t,” Kent said. “I’d retire if I could.”
Kent said he has encountered — about once a year — people who have a mathematical equation they say will predict a big earthquake. He listens, but he has yet to see anything that works. Now he’s wary of the conversation, saying it just empowers people who believe.