Case Studies in Earth & Environmental Science Journalism

Earthquake Prediction


Questions to Ponder and Discuss



Background information:

Mileti, D. S. and Fitzpatrick, C., 1993. The Evolution of Earthquake Warnings. In: (Ed.), The Great Earthquake Experiment. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp. 45-60.

Agnew, D. C. and Ellsworth, W. L., 1991. Earthquake Prediction and Long-ter m Hazard Assessment. Rev. of Geophys., supplement: 877-889.


Scientific Papers: Loma Prieta

excerpts from: Plafker, G. and Galloway, J. P., 1989. Lessons learned from the Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989. Washington, DC, US Govt Printing Office, 49 pp.

Sykes, L., 1996. Intermediate- and long-term earthquake prediction. Proc. National Acad. Sci. USA, 93: 3732-3739.

Sykes, L. R. and Nishenko, S. P., 1984. Probabilities of occurrence of large plate rupturing earthquakes for the San Andreas, San Jacinto, and Imperial Faults, California, 1983-2003. Jour. Geophys. Res., 89: 5905-5927.

Nishenko, S. P. and Williams, P. L., 1985. Seismic Hazard Estimate for the San Jose--San Juan segment of the San Andreas Fault: 1985-2005. In: C. F. Shearer (Ed.), Minutes of the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council July 26-27, 1985, Menlo Park, CA. U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 85-754, U.S. Geological Survey, pp. 351-366.

Sykes, L., 1985, letter to Dallas Peck, Director US Geological Survey, included as an appendix in USGS Open File Report 86-92, Minutes of the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, Sept 8 & 9, 1985.

Sykes, L., 1986, letter to Dallas Peck, Directory US Geological Survey, included as an appendix in USGS Open File Report 86-630, Minutes of the National Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council, February 26- March 1, 1986.


Popular Articles: Loma Prieta

Kerr, R. A., 1988. California's Quakes Forecasted. Science, 241: 413-414.

Monastersky, R., 1989. Bay area shock may foreshadow strong quake, in Science News. August 19, 1989. p. 119.

Kerr, R. A., 1989. Another California Seismic Hot Spot, in Science. August 18, 1989. p. 704.

-------------------------earthquake October 17, 1989 --------------------------------------

------------------------ immediate response articles ----------------------------------------

Blakeslee, S., 1989, Area of Quake was pegged as risky, New York Times, p. A23:2, 18 Oct 1989.

Blakeslee, S., 1989, Geologists track quake to predict future risk, Times, p. B14, 19 Oct 1989.

Holmes, S. V., 1989, The earthquake so 'great' a later one seems puny, Times, p. B14, 19 Oct 1989.

Sullivan, W., 1989, Bigger one is believed still ahead, Times, p. B14, 19 Oct 1989.

Monastersky, R., 1989. Earthquake leaves Bay area still vulnerable, in Science News. Oct. 21, 1989. p. 261.

Budiansky, S., 1989. After the Great Quake of '89, in U.S. News & World Report. Oct 30, 1989. p. 28-35.

Allman, W. F., 1989. When the Earth Rumbles, in U.S. News & World Report. Oct 30, 1989. p. 38-44.

Carpenter, B. and Brownlee, S., 1989. Not yet accurate to a fault, in U. S. News & World Report. Oct 30, 1989. p. 44-45.

Griggs , L., Wyss, D., Reingold, E. M. and Willwerth, J., 1989. Earthquake, in Time. October 30, 1989. p. 30-40+.

Hollis, R. W., McDowell, J. and Scott, S., 1989. The Benefits of Being Prepared, in Time. Oct 30, 1989. p. 42-43.

Nash, J. M., 1989. Still waiting for the big one, in Time. Oct 30, 1989. p. 44-45.

Toufexis, A., 1989. And Now, Emotional Aftershocks, in Time. Oct 30, 1989. p. 46.

Morrow, L., 1989. When the earth cracks open, in Time. 30 Oct 89. p. 100.

staff, 1989. After the Shock, in Newsweek. 30 Oct 89. p. 22-27.

staff, 1989. Bracing for the Big One, in Newsweek. 30 Oct 89. p. 28-33.

staff, 1989. Designed for Survival, in Newsweek. 30 Oct 1989. p. 34-37.

Begley, S., 1989. Smashing Plates, Broken Ground, in Newsweek. 30 October 1989. p. 37-41.

Garwin, L., 1989. Loma Prieta Earthquake: A successful prediction? Nature, 341: 677.

--------------------------- later articles ----------------------------------------------------

Nash, J. M. and Wyss, D., 1989. Is California worth the risk?, in Time. Nov. 6, 1989. p. 18-20.

Trippett, F., 1989. Is Los Angeles next?, in Time. Nov. 6, 1989. p. 24.

Monastersky, R., 1989. 'Preshock' pattern may foretell quakes, in Science News. Dec. 9, 1989. p. 374-375.

Monastersky, R., 1989. Magnetic signal preceded October quake, in Science News. 16 Dec 89. p. 390.

U. S. Geological Survey Staff, 1990. The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake: An anticipated event. Science, 247: 286-293. (19 Jan 1990)

Chen, I., 1990. Pre-quake quirks: Searching for predictors, in Science News. 13 Oct 1990. p. 231.

Monastersky, R., 1990. Did earth give clues prior to Bay quake?, in Science News. Dec 15, 1990. p. 374.

anon., 1990. Broadcast Warning: Did radio waves portend the Loma Prieta quake?, in Scientific American. March 1990. p. 27-28.

anon, 1991. Unfaithful Geyser, in Discover. July 1991. p. 8.

---------------- public service information ----------------------------------------------------

Ward, P. and Page, R. A., 1989. The Loma Prieta Earthquake of October 17, 1989. U. S. Geological Survey, 16 pp.


Scientific Papers: New Madrid

excerpts from: Fuller, M. L., 1912. The New Madrid Earthquake. U.S. Gov't. Printing Office, Washington, D.C., pp.

excerpts from: The Ad Hoc Working Group on the December 2-3, 1., Earthquake Prediction,, 1990, "Evaluation of the December 2-3, 1990, New Madrid Seismic Zone Prediction,"


Popular Articles: New Madrid

Thenhaus, P. C., 1990. Perpectives on Earthquake Hazards in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, Missouri. In: ?? (Ed.), Earthquakes and Volcanos. U. S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, pp. 4-21. (book written for a lay audience, published just before I. Browning prediction)

------------ national coverage, pre-prediction date ------------------------------------

Nash, J. M., 1990. Wake Up, East and Midwest, in Time. Oct 8, 1990. p. 79-80.

Schwartz, J., 1990. Quake, Rattle and Roll, in Newsweek. Oct 29, 1990. p. 40.

Gliatto, T., 1990. New Madrid, Mo., prays that a dire prediction proves faulty, in People Weekly. Dec 3, 1990. p. 113-116.

------------ blow by blow coverage -----------------------------------------------------

Results of search of on-line Newspaper Abstracts for "su:New Madrid AND earthquake"

1990 St. Louis Post-Dispatch (taken as representative of local coverage):

- July 14: Prediction for Big Quake Attacked

- July 21: Quake Prediction Taken Seriously

- Sept 30: A Quake on Dec 3? Don't Bet the Farm (editorial)

- Oct 18: Shake-up: Quake Prediction Denounced

- Oct 19: Scientists Rip Record of Earthquake Predictor

- Oct 21: He calls it 'A Fact' State's Quake Expert Believes in Psychic Phenomena valid

- Oct 30: Panel analyzes Browning record

- Nov 16: Quake forecaster now predicting Depression

- Nov 17: Shake, Rattle 'n' Dollar Rolls (editorial)

- Dec 4: (day of prediction) Seismography: All is Quiet on the Expert Front

- Dec 4: Nothing Shaking: Schools, Shopping Centers have Slow Day

- Dec 4: Pressing On: New Madrid Ready for Media to Leave

- Dec 5: New Madrid Shakes Off its Invaders

- Dec 6: 5-Day Period Set for Quake Ends Quietly


1990 New York Times (taken as representative of national coverage)

- Aug 20: Midwest Quake is Predicted; Talk is Real

- Sep 27: Earthquake Rattles Missouri, Reminding Residents of a Prediction

- Dec 1: In Quake Zone, a Forecast Sets Off Tremors

- Dec 4: Waiting for the Big One (editorial)

- Dec 4: In New Madrid, Crowds for Quake that Wasn't

----------------- post prediction analysis ---------------------------------------

Shipman, M., Fowler, G. and Shain, R., 1993. Media coverage of the Browning Prediction. Int. Jour. Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 11: 379-389.

Bazell, R., 1990. A Little Shaky, in The New Republic. Dec 10, 1990. p. 16-17.

Cowen, R. C., 1990, Not Even Once in a Blue Moon, Christian Science Monitor, p. 12, Dec 19, 1990.

Frazier, K., 1991. The Iben Browning Quake-Prediction Flap: Lessons Linger, in The Skeptical Inquirer. p. 229.

Stix, G., 1991. Future Shock: Fear of the "Big One" fules sales of insurance and velcro, in Scientific American. January 1991. p. 111.


Return to Case Studies

Return to E&ESJ Home Page