GLOBAL JOURNALIST: Preparation for earthquakes makes major difference

Friday, March 5, 2010 | 11:55 a.m. CST; updated 10:10 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stuart Loory, Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies at the Missouri School of Journalism: This week we’re going to discuss the aftermath of the earthquake in Chile, but first, here is a bit of trivia. Since the quake last week, the earth has been spinning faster, and it has become more tilted on its axis. But don’t worry about that. Each day has been shortened by one and one-quarter millionth of a second. We’re not going to notice that, and neither are we going to notice that slight tilt change, but here is something we can all worry about. Why is it easier to predict the coming of other natural disasters like hurricanes than it is an earthquake and the resulting tsunami? Why did the Chilean earthquake Feb. 26, although it was 500 times more powerful, do far less damage than the earthquake in Haiti almost two months ago? Those are the questions we’re going to try to shed some light on today. Let’s start with Professor Sandvol. Professor, why is it that the sciences of seismology or geophysics or geological science cannot develop better procedures for predicting these tragedies?