Predicting Earthquakes More Complex than Thought | The Institute for Creation Research
Predicting Earthquakes More Complex than Thought
The accurate prediction of an earthquake could potentially save thousands of lives. Everything from the study of strange animal behavior to satellites mapping changes in surface elevation have been employed to try and predict earthquakes. However, few of these methods have been shown to be reliable or accurate.

Recently, a new study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America has suggested that earthquakes follow a complex mathematical pattern described as the ”devil’s staircase.”1 The phenomenon is known as phase locking, or resonance, and is sometimes present in systems with two competing frequencies.2 As each system changes with time, the two experience moments when they are in phase and then again out of phase.2 Graphing this pattern with time creates a staircase pattern, hence the name, where the steps vary in height and width.

Earthquakes are sometimes linked along the same fault system and others are connected by their presence on the same plate boundary, like a subduction zone. The interrelated nature of many large faults and plate boundaries globally can cause some earthquakes to cluster or occur in short intervals, one right after the other. Whereas, at other times, earthquakes on one part of the same fault system do not seem to cause any additional earthquakes elsewhere. These areas with no earthquake activity can remain dormant for many years, making an overall pattern of sudden activity followed by extended pauses, creating the “devil’s staircase” pattern.

But the problem with using this to predict earthquakes is the same as most other methods: There is not enough data over a long enough period of time to make any sense of the data, let alone an accurate prediction of the next big earthquake. Brooks Hays of UPI summarized,

When models fail to take a wide-angle view of earthquake sequences—instead, looking at seismic patterns over short periods of time—it becomes impossible to tell whether a series of seismic events occurred within a single cluster or spanned two clusters and an interval of silence.3

Lead author Yuxuan Chen, from the Department of Geological Sciences, University of Missouri at Columbia, and colleagues wrote,

For this same reason, we need to be cautious when assessing an event is 'overdue' just because the time measured from the previous event has passed some 'mean recurrence time' based an incomplete catalog.1

Today’s earthquakes are mere reminders of the tremendous seismic activity that must have occurred during the global Flood. However, during the Flood year, there were likely thousands upon thousands of earthquakes, with few pauses. The tectonic plates during the Flood were moving meters per second, not a few centimeters per year like we observe today.4

Geophysicist John Baumgardner calculated that the rapidly moving plates during the Flood may have produced one major earthquake every 4 seconds.5 In his calculations, he assumed the earth had subduction zones that were approximately the same length as we observe today, possibly totaling 40,000 miles.5

That many earthquakes, so closely spaced in time, could have pushed tsunami waves onto the continents so quickly that they could not drain off before the next one hit. Baumgardner further determined that this could have produced “standing waves” of water as high as 4,900 feet in some locations across the continents, greatly helping to flood the earth.5

Earthquakes and their resulting tsunamis were likely a big source for the rising waters used by God to orchestrate the judgment of the Flood. Today, we still experience these infrequent, unpredictable, and often deadly reminders. The more we learn about earthquakes, the more complex they seem to become. And unfortunately, no easy way to predict them seems to be in sight. Meanwhile, the earth continues to groan as in the pains of childbirth because of the sin of Adam.6

1. Chen, Y. et al. 2020. Complex Temporal Patterns of Large Earthquakes: Devil’s Staircases. Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.
2. Brookhaven National Laboratory. 1968. The devil’s staircase. Physics Today. 39 (12): 38.
3. Hays, B. Timing of Earth’s biggest earthquakes follows a ‘devil’s staircase’ pattern. United Press International. Posted on April 14, 2020, accessed April 23, 2020.
4. Baumgardner, J. 1994. Runaway Subduction as the Driving Mechanism for the Genesis Flood. In Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism. R. Walsh, ed. Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship Inc., 63-75.
5. Baumgardner, J. 2016. Numerical Modeling of the Large-Scale Erosion, Sediment Transport, and Deposition Processes of the Genesis Flood. Answers Research Journal. 9: 1–24.
6. Romans 8:22.

*Dr. Clarey is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his doctorate in geology from Western Michigan University.
The Latest
Viking DNA Highlights Post-Babel Genetic Diversity
The standard theme often given for Viking history is that of blond-haired, blued-eyed, burly men exploring, trading, ransacking, and pillaging across Europe,...

Getting Carbon into the First Cell
Today’s secular mindset replaces “In the beginning God…” with “In the beginning, hydrogen….” The extreme specificity...

Secular Science Struggles to Explain Origin of Earth’s Water
Tim Clarey, Ph.D., and Jake Hebert, Ph.D. Secular scientists continue to struggle to explain the origin of Earth’s water. And a new study...

South American Plant Fossils Confirm Flood Boundary
Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D., and Tim Clarey, Ph.D. Fossil pollen, leaf and fruit impressions, and petrified wood taken from multiple locations...

Record-Breaking Mouse, Higher Than Any Mammal
Recently, researchers have reported on the world’s “highest-dwelling mammal,” the yellow-rumped leaf-eared mouse, observed upon a dormant...

Was This Cave Bear Really “Prehistoric”?
The preserved carcass of a “prehistoric” cave bear has been discovered in melting permafrost on an Arctic Russian Island.1,2 Reindeer...

Have Scientists Found Life on Venus?
Secular scientists are obsessed with attempting to show that life on Earth is not unique and therefore must exist, if not elsewhere in our solar system...

Inside October 2020 Acts & Facts
What is ICR’s vision for the next chapter of creation ministry? Why do mosquitoes attack humans? How did we celebrate the first anniversary of...

Abound in This Grace
One of the strongest exhortations for Christian giving is found in Paul’s encouragement to the believers in Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul...

Food Web Ecology Corroborates Scripture
Real-world ecology supports the Bible’s trustworthiness. Accordingly, how creatures get and use food matches how Scripture describes our world.1-3 Food...