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Friday, May 11th 2012, 8:19 AM EDT
Eclisseforum.it has interviewed Dr. John Gregory, a member of the famous center for the prediction of earthquakes and volcanic IEVPC based in Orlando (USA).
The interview is structured in two parts, but here we publish the first.
But first let's find out who is prof. John P. Gregori - Professor of Geophysics and researcher at the Institute of Acoustics CNR OMCorbino CNR of Rome. 1963-2001 Researcher at the IFA / CNR (Institute of Atmospheric Physics), Rome, with instructions to study the Sun-Earth Relations. The polar aurora and geomagnetism (1963-1975) have led to a model of the magnetosphere (1970-1972) considered one of his best results. He formulated a theory of magnetospheric substorms and magnetic storms on the sole basis of variational principles of classical physics, by applying the result even planets and their satellites. Since 1961 he has an intense congressional worldwide.
1) Dr. Gregori, we can explain what the IEVPC, how it operates and what are its aims?
It is an initiative that aims to provide a service similar to that of the meteorological service on though - instead of the atmospheric circulation - the efforts in the crust.
Consider this analogy in detail.
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Today, the weather service is based on elaborate models. Most large computers for civilian use are those used to develop these models. With them you can provide predictions for the transit of cold or warm fronts, cloud formations, precipitation, development, evolution and trajectory of cyclones and hurricanes, etc.. and it is also possible to make predictions over a period of less than a week. The reliability ("skill") of these predictions is then painstakingly checked a posteriori, and, when possible, gradually perfected.
Any prediction on time scales greater than 5 days today is still unreliable, and any assertion to the contrary objectively should not be taken into any serious consideration.
The weather, however, are not able to predict whether, at a particular site and in a given instant, there will be atmospheric precipitation or not. Eg. think of what is done at a formula one race. To have weather with a detail thus pushed is indispensable acquire expensive and dense network of measuring points, on a local scale, with which to develop the calculation of a model with a spatial detail that it would be impossible to obtain much larger surfaces (this into account not only the cost of the measurement network, as also the cost of running a huge amount of experimental measurements, etc..).
We come now to the crustal efforts. These propagate in the crust with the development of true "crustal storms." They are global phenomena that propagate and last few years, followed by periods of "quiet" (ie periods in which the sailor jargon you should call for calm). Earthquakes occur during periods of "crustal storm", and affect only a few where the fault is accumulating strain energy sufficient to generate a given shock intensity.
When the stimulus reaches a sufficiently intense storm crustal this can sometimes be the "spark" that triggers a disaster.
Eg. in the case of the L'Aquila earthquake, there was the notorious fault line of Paganica that might be at risk. In this case, if there was this service, it would be reasonable to install a dense network of sensors around the fault, hoping to figure out if it was locally evolving toward an eventual criticality.
That 's IEVPC does not make forecasts of earthquakes. It is rather diagnostic status of Earth's crust and how the efforts of crustal spread on a global scale. It is certainly possible to surely perform this prediction of propagation of crustal efforts.
This does not mean that earthquakes are predictable! Just as it is predictable if and where a drop of rain will fall.
Nor is it possible for a physician to predict the moment of death of a patient. But it is absurd to assert that the doctor can not diagnose the state of health and aging and evolution of a patient! So it is absurd to assert that it is not possible to diagnose the state of the earth's crust, and its "disease" and its propagation on a global scale, etc..
Last straw that was not possible to predict that!
Three key points are highlighted.
I) The study of crustal efforts can not be performed with the measurement of seismometers. By analogy, try to think that medicine is based only on analysis of anatomical cadavers. In contrast, the medicine makes progress precisely because it studies the patients while they are alive, their diseases, etc.. and seeks to address the situations that follow. If we study only the last moments of a terminally ill patient can do very little!
A seismometer measures the catastrophe when it's already happened. You need to find diagnostic tools to see how it evolves the state of the crust when an earthquake does not happen. The problem of "forecasting" is a false problem, since it is inherently insoluble should be made for the epicentral area (but as large as?), The moment (with what uncertainty?) And magnitude (how margin of error?) .
Similarly it does not makes sense to study the hydrology of a river at the sole basis of its floods. We must study its hydrological regime, the rainfall in its watershed basin, the flow speed of water (which also depends on vegetation, soil dall'imbibimento, etc..), The status of your bed (which is filled, either naturally with sediment, is fatal for the use of the bed as a garbage dump, etc..), consider the damage that may result from plantations in the banks (which in case of violent fully become a dangerous reservoir of uprooted trees that are dam placing across the arches of bridges), etc.. Nature must be respected in its narrow needs: if you build in the floodplains of the rivers, then you can not cry over spilled milk!
The same goes for all the hydro-geological hazards, volcanic, seismic, ....
II) It is childish and naive to think that a single parameter, a single phenomenon, "magically" let "predict" an earthquake. Each earthquake is certainly preceded by important precursors. Moreover, each seismic event - in different areas or even in the same area at different times - is a phenomenon in itself and is NOT comparable to other seismic events. It's a bit 'as patients of a physician: each patient is a special case. There may be similarities, but NOT an identity in the strict sense can ever exist!
A scientist is neither sorcerer nor shaman!
III) In all the countries of the world there is a frightening lack of legislation. No prediction (weather, medical, or other) may be given in the strict sense. There is always a possibility that, for reasons still unknown or unpredictable, any move towards a catastrophic event is suddenly interrupted .... In science there are many more things that you do not know of what is presumed to know!
Since 1970 was held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris a conference on these issues. Since then, it was discussed and it is discussed, but in practice the problem has never been solved .... And the shortage is critical legislation, much more research and environmental geophysics!.
If an institutional Alert issued today, and for example, requires the evacuation of a large number of inhabitants for a considerable period of time ..... and besides the catastrophic event does not occur (or is the all-clear after a few days ....), that authority shall be referred to the judiciary with heavy civil and criminal charges .... The court will appoint experts who will release some skill, not even this was more precise than done by scientists of the institution!
This is an 'attitude identical to that child's kindergarten compagnuccio that threatens to "tell the teacher". So the company, "says the judiciary."
In practice, therefore, little import, if you will then have a number of victims terrifying .... when the institutional authority (only for a humanly understandable prudence, to avoid heavy consequences to his officials) would prefer not to issue that alert rather to common sense would have to be issued ......
The fault is NOT the scientist, as the legislator who is hiding behind a finger and does not simply address the problem (which is crucial, and not secondary!).
2) What is your role within the organization? What do you do?
I was invited as a consultant because of the work which I published (with various co-authors) where we have highlighted (with a totally original and innovative methodology) the existence of crustal storms, using measures of " noise "(AE) or ultrasound measured on rock outcrops.
Every rock body, when subjected to very small and subtle twists, becomes itself an instrument of measurement, because the forces generated within it, such that AE release. In this way you can monitor in real time, on several rocky bodies around the world, the spread of the stress in the Earth's crust even on a planetary scale, just to have a reasonable number of stations measuring AE .
This "discovery" has been supplemented by other aspects related to my other original contributions to the study of phenomena of the Earth (see below).
Furthermore, with regard to the applications of measures AE, our studies were developed especially in relation to the monitoring of environmental phenomena. But, given the success, we then considered the potential related to technological applications.
Finally, we strongly believe we can provide a very effective diagnostic tool to monitor the aging of materials and loss of performance of solid structures (such as the Colosseum stands for thousands of years and its travertine blocks are governed by the one 'another by gravity, while the Brooklyn Bridge, while artfully constructed, when the steel of its support cables will be "aged" can not stand even further).
We feel certain that within a few decades will surely be prevented to a large extent the notorious tragedies related or sudden collapse of apartment buildings, viaducts or obsolescent, or disasters such as Viareggio obsolescence of the rolling stock, or ecological disasters linked to platforms oil or oil pipelines, etc.. or even the unexpected loss of performance of various types of mobile units (vehicles, ships, planes, helicopters, rolling stock) or tanks and other equipment, or even monitor the precursors of landslides, the stability of embankments, tunnels, dams, etc..
The use of AE to monitor the status of "aging" of the materials - and in general many issues critical to the safety of the environments where they live, work, have fun, etc.. -Will therefore be very usual, such as in medicine today has become customary daily use of ultrasound for diagnostic purposes ....
(Today it would be possible to imagine medicine without ultrasound?)
I have so requested and obtained an international patent, and now with some friendly people who are funding the initiative (and to which I am personally very sincerely grateful), we are trying to produce commercially competitive and tools aimed at different potential applications. The journey is certainly difficult .....
3) You've announced plans to issue global forecasts, but how can you cover the entire planet? What tools and equipment used?
You need to put in place measurement networks do not exist today, initially with a limited number of points, and gradually more and more rich and detailed, on account of local needs. The classical techniques of measurement and monitoring, used to date, have now given all the information they could give. Today there are new opportunities and knowledge. The measurement networks should therefore be supplemented with new approaches to monitoring.
The two new core networks are surely: 1) a network of stations AE, and 2) a network of measurement of geoterme surface.
With geoterme surface temperature profiles are named in the soil during the first 3.5 m of depth. For well over half a century, this technique is very effectively used in the meteorological network of the Chinese sub (School prof. Maocang Tang). By extrapolating data collected in periods not perturbed by rainfall or snow cover, you can monitor changes in fluid fumes from the ground (which, among other things, also depend on changes in soil porosity, which is monitored by the AE measures ). The measure serves both to monitor (indirectly) the change over time of the efforts crustal, both for a better understanding of the heat exchanges between the earth's surface and atmosphere. They are able to predict (on behalf of the Chinese government systematically) with a success by 70% the average rainfall in several months to come, and on areas of several hundred kilometers in diameter.
Other networks of measurement must then be considered, eg. one of the 25 superconducting gravimeters which is already in use worldwide, which are expensive and delicate instruments.
Another network feasible at relatively low cost is the use of cables for transoceanic communication, through the induced electric currents. This network can be used to understand the efforts made to our planet from the Sun controlled by electromagnetic forces
It would also be very important (although currently still very expensive and difficult to implement) measure changes in the speed of rotation of the Earth and the displacement of the poles with a time resolution very thrust (eg. Every second; now gives a value every day ....).
Many other types of measures can then be assumed, would take too long and tedious to list them in full.
However, in general, in each case, you should be aware of the signal / noise ratio, ie the likelihood that a given measure may be more or less violently disrupted by environmental factors and accidental, and which have nothing to do with what you want monitor. In fact this is a handicap that frustrates many overt measures that states can often give "magically" information "fundamentals."
However, all measures must always be taken into account, as did ethics. But we must not "deify" never any kind of measurement. No measurement "miraculous" exists, or will ever exist. Every measure must be balanced against common sense, because its exact content, meaning, and scope.
The need to use more measurement techniques is equivalent to the need for a doctor to make use of different diagnostic information. No diagnostic indicator is true for every type of pathology. The physician must use logic and common sense and besides making the diagnosis. There is nothing different in geophysics!
4) So far the scientific community has viewed with skepticism the ability to predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in advance, could you tell us if anything has changed?
As I said above, talk about prediction of an earthquake is childish and naive. One can speak of crustal diagnosis (see above).
The skepticism which you mention is more than justified. But it is totally irresponsible to assert that it is not possible to make a diagnosis more or less accurate than the Earth's crust and its evolution based on instantaneous and in real time (depending on network size, types, multiparametricità, network density, timing data acquisition, etc..)
Very different is the case of a prediction of volcanic eruption. Compared to the case where you do not know the earthquake epicenter, you know the place (the building volcanic eruptions) and you just try to monitor a possible change in the volcano and is heading towards a catastrophe of the system. Usually each volcano provides precursors well instrumentally measurable, and tentatively at least several months in advance.
However the provision of a real-eruptive phenomenon is never feasible with precision thrust. The implications are worth very marked lack of legislation, for which no authority would never be a warning, then in fear of being "penalized" if the event does not occur then. See above.
But the volcanic risk could be dealt with realistically less problematic. It lacks only the legislative coverage!
5) In the articles dedicated to you, you read that you have joined the technical and personal research on your team, developing procedures for predicting the ECJ (Geophysical Catastrophic Events). Could you briefly explain what are these techniques?
I think I already answered this question with what I stated above.
6) In the light of your research, what are the factors that influence the generation of an earthquake and a volcanic eruption?
With a naive attitude, you think that every year is identical to each other. On the contrary, are in place deep environmental changes. We see those elements, but these are a "splinter in the eye" than others that are real "beams".
For example, to quote the grossest errors, it is totally silly to think that the temperature of the atmosphere will lead to a change in ocean temperatures (that is quite certainly the opposite!)
Changes in endogenous release of thermal energy are enormous from year to year, with well-recognized courses, and with great confidence, on the geological time scale. The development of human civilization (a few tens of thousands of years) has occurred during a time interval of duration trascurabilissima respect to the time scale of these phenomena.
The claim that the Antarctic ice to form icebergs warming pollution is one of the most colossal nonsense that you hear often repeated by the media! Did you think that is colossal nonsense propinando can solve society's problems? Or is not that this will fuel irresponsible populist itch when they are not driven by interests not declared?
We care for the "climate" of pollution, if it is hot, if it's cold, if it rains or if there is drought, etc.. But far more significant phenomena take place inside of our planet and so far we have measured everything very well.
The idea that the Earth is a ball of fire that goes in the cooling time is totally untenable on the basis of experimental evidence, is puerile, and even derives from "beliefs" that sink into the fantasies of the first seismic great thinkers of ancient Greece. They were fine then. Certainly today, right in the 21 st century, are the most pathetic, and is not acceptable that the pedantic "science" today uncritically accept these beliefs ..
We must therefore see the true nature with Franciscan humility, trying to learn from his posts, which we can read only following specific measures, not only those traditions that have become trite.
Also let's stop hiding behind silly assertions on populist'' anthropogenic pollution. The pollution exists, and should be viewed with seriousness and professionalism. I do see great alarm "straws" and hide "beams".
The role of advisers is very important. Many so-called popular science is irresponsible, a true act of "cultural terrorism". Every time science is presented in key catastrofistica or sensationalist, it severely undermines the credibility of the prestige of science.
Try to think of medicine presented in sensationalist and key catastrofistica (mad cow disease, bird flu, etc..). Perhaps you think this is the way to sensitize people in the street to the problems of medical research?
We study the nature with its messages with humility and good sense, and only then we will find ways to reduce casualties, suffering, death, damage, ....
We close here the first part of the interview by thanking all inanzi Professor Gregori for his availability. Thanks go to all users who participated Eclisseforum.it questions to turn to Professor Gregory, thank you also for Simplicio drafting of the questions correct, dear readers to see you soon with the second part of the interview.
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