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Thursday, October 15, 2020

AI and Seismology

 An area we consulted on early and continue to follow.   Some comment here on why current, otherwise excellent pattern recognition techniques do not predict earthquakes.  Good update by CACM

AI Shakes up Seismology World

Commissioned by CACM Staff    By Samuel Greengard  

Artificial intelligence is helping researchers to better understand seismic events and to develop early warning systems that can save lives and protect property.

Few events on our planet are as complex as earthquakes. How, when and why they occur remains mostly a mystery, even with today's sophisticated instruments, sensors, and machines continuously monitoring and measuring seismic activity. "The vast number of variables and data points produce an extraordinarily complex picture," says Men-Andrin Meier, associate staff seismologist in the Seismological Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology (CalTech).

For decades, scientists have attempted to understand earthquakes using everything from satellite imagery to computer simulations, which have yielded modest and mixed results. Now scientists are turning to a new ally: artificial intelligence (AI), which is helping researchers better understand seismic events and develop early warning systems that can save lives and protect property.

"Machine learning and other forms of AI have emerged as valuable tools. They are advancing the science in a significant way," says Zachary Ross, an assistant professor of geophysics in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at CalTech.

Finding Faults

The science surrounding earthquakes is extraordinarily complex. Unlike weather forecasting, which uses real-time data from satellites, sensors, and earth stations to track conditions as they occur, seismologists must rely on signals after an event. This data streams in from digital seismometers and broadband sensors on the ground. Measuring stress beneath the Earth's surface is next to impossible, because researchers don't have access to sensors buried deeply enough to measure underground forces.

Seismologists had largely given up on the idea of predicting earthquakes; at least, for the foreseeable future. However, the field is enjoying a renaissance thanks to machine learning and deep learning. Using connected sensors and algorithms, researchers are gaining insights into earthquake behavior, including how smaller swarms of temblors may or may not lead to a larger event. The researchers also are developing early alert systems that can protect property and lives. Says Meier, "We have gotten to the point where we don't have to choose between quantity and quality of the data."  .... " 

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