Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 445–458, 2011

Special issue: Progress in research on earthquake precursors

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 445–458, 2011

Research article 14 Feb 2011

Research article | 14 Feb 2011

Seismicity dynamics and earthquake predictability

G. A. Sobolev G. A. Sobolev
  • The Schmidt Institute of Physics of the Earth, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

Abstract. Many factors complicate earthquake sequences, including the heterogeneity and self-similarity of the geological medium, the hierarchical structure of faults and stresses, and small-scale variations in the stresses from different sources. A seismic process is a type of nonlinear dissipative system demonstrating opposing trends towards order and chaos. Transitions from equilibrium to unstable equilibrium and local dynamic instability appear when there is an inflow of energy; reverse transitions appear when energy is dissipating. Several metastable areas of a different scale exist in the seismically active region before an earthquake. Some earthquakes are preceded by precursory phenomena of a different scale in space and time. These include long-term activation, seismic quiescence, foreshocks in the broad and narrow sense, hidden periodical vibrations, effects of the synchronization of seismic activity, and others. Such phenomena indicate that the dynamic system of lithosphere is moving to a new state – catastrophe. A number of examples of medium-term and short-term precursors is shown in this paper. However, no precursors identified to date are clear and unambiguous: the percentage of missed targets and false alarms is high. The weak fluctuations from outer and internal sources play a great role on the eve of an earthquake and the occurrence time of the future event depends on the collective behavior of triggers. The main task is to improve the methods of metastable zone detection and probabilistic forecasting.