Verdict in Italian quake forecast manslaughter case

Just in. Wow, this is a surprising verdict… 

Story here:

This will put a chill on all sorts of forecasts where life and property are at risk.

Given this precedent, it likely puts an end to the science of earthquake forecasting…at least publicly.

But that’s a catch-22 also. If a scientist suspects a quake based on his measurements and experience, and says nothing about it for fear of retribution, does that make the scientist also guilty of manslaughter?

UPDATE: Roger Pielke Jr. supplies some background on the issue here

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October 22, 2012 11:14 am

This is just utter crap! You can’t predict Earthquakes in any reasonable sense. What the hell is wrong with law in Italy!

Tony McGough
October 22, 2012 11:16 am

Very odd. Did the defendants mean to deceive when they gave a “falsely” reassuring statement? Or did they think the whole idea of earthquake forecasting is very imprecise anyway, and try to allay any unnecessary alarm?

October 22, 2012 11:17 am

Why not burn them at the stake?

October 22, 2012 11:18 am

It depends upon the full context. If this were a politically motivated pronouncement, because of worries about the cost to the government if an evacuation were to be required, for example, then the court decision is absolutely correct.
If there was compete dereliction of duty, if these “experts” didn’t take a serious look at the evidence, again, the decision may be correct.
If its because they were just wrong … well, hopefully the appeals court will clear that up with minimal delay.

October 22, 2012 11:19 am

The only way I can see them reasonably being held “guilty” of anything would be if they had some sort of financial interest in reassuring people: e.g. if they wanted another 24 hours to sell their homes or juggle their stocks. Simply making a wrong judgment call certainly shouldn’t count — unless we want all weather forecasters to have to pay malpractice insurance!

Tim Walker
October 22, 2012 11:19 am

Stupidity reaches a new low. It really is just politics. An extrapolation of the politics of AGW and now this scapegoat situation leads one to a very dark place.

October 22, 2012 11:21 am

Dear me. Things are going downhill faster than I thought. I suppose they’re lucky not to be burned at the stake.
Perhaps this legislation could be extended to cover non-appearance of alarmist claims concerning CAGW, boiling oceans, that sort of thing.
I could support that!

October 22, 2012 11:24 am

Which sets the precedent for skeptical scientists being convicted of manslaughter in an Italian court if a disaster deemed to have been caused or exacerbated by global warming takes lives.

Matt in Houston
October 22, 2012 11:26 am

I vaguely remember this story from its initial state when the scientists were charged. What a travesty of justice. How on earth is this non-sense allowed by the people of Italy? They should be ashamed and disgraced. Collossal idiocy knows no boundaries. The world truly is insane it seems.

son of mulder
October 22, 2012 11:26 am

Were they sceptical of earthquake prediction science? Six years in jail is about right for sceptics in the devoloping new world order. /sarc off

Nano Pope
October 22, 2012 11:26 am

Did the Vatican give this ruling, how else could man be responsible for an act of Gaia, sorry God.

October 22, 2012 11:28 am

Michael J Alexander said: “This is just utter crap! You can’t predict Earthquakes in any reasonable sense. What the hell is wrong with law in Italy!”
I think the point is that they didn’t say “we don’t know” they told people that there wasn’t one due.
Maybe this will lead to some (hopefully climate) scientists being a little more humble about the level of their knowledge.

October 22, 2012 11:30 am

Soooo….what if they predicted a quake and the town was evacuated, but no quake happened? Do the scientists then owe restitution?

October 22, 2012 11:33 am

Heard an interview on the radio earlier. The interviewee a friend of one of the scientists suggested an over reliance in computer models

October 22, 2012 11:40 am

This will put a chill on all sorts of forecasts where life and property are at risk.
How do you figure? Seems to me a conviction for giving a “falsely reassuring statement” will be a strong incentive to increase alarmism, at least in Italy. It will certainly be used as an excuse for alarmism elsewhere, under the guise of the “precautionary principle”.
If a scientist suspects a quake based on his measurements and experience, and says nothing about it for fear of retribution, does that make the scientist also guilty of manslaughter?
Depending on local laws, it appears it may. That is only a half step removed from the circumstances of the current conviction.
Much less likely is that someone will be convicted of a serious crime for “crying wolf”. While alarmism may cause much greater damage (including deaths) than underemphasizing risks, attribution is typically much more difficult. And now, at least in Italy, one can point a finger and claim that the alarmism is the official policy. Together these will likely push toward more alarmism.

October 22, 2012 11:42 am

It seems they didn’t follow procedure and ignored this and that. Dunno. The story is just unfolding. Now, how about other forecast failures with serious damage to property and quality of life? Like, say…

October 22, 2012 11:43 am

PM said,
“I think the point is that they didn’t say “we don’t know” they told people that there wasn’t one due.
Maybe this will lead to some (hopefully climate) scientists being a little more humble about the level of their knowledge.”
Good point.

October 22, 2012 11:49 am

They can (should) of course appeal to higher courts and at worst, let the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) handle the case.

J Martin
October 22, 2012 11:51 am

Someone arrange a Climate Team conference in Italy for Ben Santer, Mike Mann, James Hansen, Lubchenko, et al.

October 22, 2012 11:51 am

The BBC had an interesting expert talking on this case who explained that it was the non expert and non scientific Govt offical who had given the reassurance. The six scientists were equivocal as scientists are when there is no compelling evidence at the time. It seems the defence did not separate out the culpability of the non expert Govt official and lumped tham all together with the experts.
A shocking decision. Care to predict an earthquake or a volcano in Italy? No thanks

October 22, 2012 11:52 am

On the ‘up’ side, this should put a damper on public doomsday forecasting – if soothsayers are held responsible for what people do or do not do based on the ‘predicitions’ of the various oracles.
Eschatology will become an uninsurable activity.

October 22, 2012 11:53 am

“I think the point is that they didn’t say “we don’t know” they told people that there wasn’t one due. ”
But is that rally what they said?
The people who should be prosecuted are those who established the “National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks” (Italy’s Commission of Grand Risks) and who thought that was a good / workable idea!

October 22, 2012 11:56 am

Heads had to roll. And roll they did. All the scientists have to do is go to the European Court and have the absurd sentence overturned.

Eyes Wide Open
October 22, 2012 11:56 am

Going forward, I predict seismology as an occupation in Italy, will die a quick death!

October 22, 2012 11:57 am

This madness is.not as bad as it sounds. But it’s what it sounds that matters.

Jeff L
October 22, 2012 11:57 am

So applying to AGW, how long do we have to wait until someone sues for economic damages caused by policies driven by a flawed theory??
I seriously doubt that will happen, but I do agree with those who say this verdict could have serious negative repercussions on the willingness of professionals to share their knowledge for fear of law suits.

Ed Zuiderwijk
October 22, 2012 11:58 am

Whatever happened to the act of God?

October 22, 2012 11:58 am

Impact will vary by country depending upon many cultural and legal factors, but I’ll speculate that the influence will be to encourage scientists and officials to make more alarmist but vague “warnings” without testable predictions (as if we don’t have too many of those already!).
i.e., to the extent that scientists and officials may sense or expect legal peril they will want to have issued some kind of warning yet nothing so specific that they can be sued or prosecuted for encouraging people to over-react, either.
So there will be a lot more vague “danger warnings” sans testable predictions….
“Sometime in the coming years there may be a storm…. earthquake….. tornado….. tsunami…… someday…. maybe”

October 22, 2012 11:58 am

Take note, I have today, instructed my solicitors to take action that, in the event of my death in circumstances that can be attributed to or are associated with the misreporting or the inaccurate stating of weather events; that Julia Slingo or whoever at the Met Office state that the event cannot or will not happen in the past, present or future actually happens within a reasonable time from a contrary statement being reasonably stated in comparison to or by Accuweather or Weatheraction dot com
Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007

cui bono
October 22, 2012 11:59 am

Despite an anti-Mann comment on the previous thread, this really shouldn’t have happened. No-one should jail scientists for incorrect forecasts, unless the forecasts are based on provable dishonesty. Like yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre when there isn’t one.
Dunno what happens if there is a fire and you keep silent….

October 22, 2012 11:59 am

p.s. Just like too much of the climate discourse already…… we will get endless cautions and warnings of peril about climate and weather, natural disasters and Mama Nature, but less and less that can be falsified.

October 22, 2012 12:01 pm

Coincidentally, today the media in Spain are telling us about a publication that has just appeared in Nature Geoscience, in which we read the sentence:
“Our results imply that anthropogenic activities could influence how and when earthquakes occur”

October 22, 2012 12:04 pm

This is disgusting, of course. Though I hear that one of the scientists had made many political enemies ’cause he’s kind of a jerk. Is it a surprise that politics would trump science?

October 22, 2012 12:06 pm

Did the scientists conspire to shut down critical views of their methods and results ?

October 22, 2012 12:07 pm

Might I suggest a cursory glance at Wikipedia?
“Inspector Montalbano is an engaging hero – honest, decent and loyal. He has his own way of doing things, and his superiors regard him as something of a loose cannon. One of the strengths of the novels is Montalbano’s ability to navigate through a murky world, a world of shady connections and favours owed and owing, without compromising himself beyond what he can live with. There is a great deal of humor in his character, but the subtext is hard criticism of the social and political situation of both the Sicilian and Italian contexts.”
It would seem that Italian law is not justice. Italy does not try anybody by a jury of peers: everyone is judged by professional judges or by a panel of judges (three or five or nine).

Snake Oil Baron
October 22, 2012 12:07 pm

If they had said “We can’t tell you if there is a big earthquake coming but there have been cases like this in the past that did not result in killer quakes” Would anyone have evacuated? How do they know that anyone died because of the “false reassurance” given?

Vince Causey
October 22, 2012 12:08 pm

PM said,
“I think the point is that they didn’t say “we don’t know” they told people that there wasn’t one due.”
No, that’s not what happened at all. I was listening to a full report on the radio this evening.
The scientists put out a report giving the probability of an earthquake, not that there wasn’t one due. This was filed with the proper authorities and is in no way taken to be derelict or negligent by other seismologists.
The problem was what happened after the report was filed. A non scientific member of the seismic team, acting as the PR, gave a media briefing. He stated – in his own opinion – that as there had been some minor tremors, this would act as a safety valve, reducing the likelihood of a major quake. The scientists had nothing to do with this statement, and it is bizarre that they should stand condemned from the ill conceived words of a non scientist.
I think that Italy will pay a price for this in terms of its credibility. One hopes that such a miscarriage would not happen in a true western democracy.

October 22, 2012 12:08 pm

The ‘defendants’ in this case is the same crew who had completely dismissed the radon data and warnings from Giampaolo Giuliani whose prediction, as it turned out, was off by 9 days and 2 magnitudes..
Maybe Giampaolo is a crackpot but data is data.
“Italy’s major risks committee met on 31 March to reassure the city’s population that the seismic activity was nothing to be alarmed about. “The tremors being felt by the population are part of a typical sequence [which is] absolutely normal in a seismic area like the one around L’Aquila,” the civil protection agency said in a statement that evening.”
See also:

October 22, 2012 12:08 pm

This is insanity! I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be a forcaster in their country.

October 22, 2012 12:09 pm

This is an example of mob mentality at work. They wanted someone to punish but God was not available, so they punished these scientists. Even if the scientists had correctly predicted a quake and had gotten anyone to believe them, they still couldn’t have pin-pointed when. So how would that have changed the outcome?

October 22, 2012 12:10 pm

an absolute disgrace if it is it appears from the bbc report. As a geologist, if I were in Italy, I would simply REFUSE to pass comment or assessment on any such issues, let the dimwits feck it up for themselves….
I applaud that there is accountability in the Italy justice system (excluding the Mafia of course, LOL) but there is no logic in applying such accountability to such an undefinable subject matter. What next? Their doctors won’t bother diagnosing and/or treating people for diseases, in case they still die? FFS, this is deffo batshit crazy!

October 22, 2012 12:12 pm

omnologos says:
October 22, 2012 at 11:57 am
sorry, but you’ll have to explain that comment for me!

October 22, 2012 12:23 pm

Lack of precise information makes the scientists on trial story hard to get my arms around. Were the scientists politically motivated into not making a catastrophic prediction? Were the scientists guilty of not having precise information on when and where and how much an earthquake would strike? Did over reliance upon computer models cloud their judgement? Did the scientists run off and hide when they should have been out in the field making precise measurements?
Other questions relate to the judicial system in Italy. Are judges politically motivated, making feel good verdicts instead of what the law states? Do the laws of Italy, in this area of jurisprudence make government officials vulnerable/immune to criminal prosecution?
One wonders.
This ruling seems to place scientists who make scientific predictions, or, in this case lack of predictions, on a similar liability footing as physicians, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, contractors, etc. It appears to me that scientists will be held accountable for their predictions. This would entail providing an estimation of risk, likelihood, and uncertainty. The ruling would make scientists provide the basis for their prediction and the data behind their assessment: transparency. The scientists would need to provide records of their deliberations, and most importantly, an airing of opposing or dissenting opinions. Disclosure of conflicts of interests along with timely updates would be required as well.
Its hard for me to understand this ruling with the lack of precise information. If the outcome is scientific transparency, well, maybe not so bad

October 22, 2012 12:29 pm

Here comes the Italian Inquisition…
I guess it’s easier to put sismologists in jail than catch Cosa Nostra bosses…

Jon B
October 22, 2012 12:54 pm

In Australia, a dam constructed for flood mitigation was progressively converted to storage by ‘progressive green’ governments ‘canning’ further water supply dams whilst allowing a Los Angeles style sprawl. It was alleged the engineers under political pressure subsequently allowed the dam to fill to dangerous levels despite forecasts of more rain. The subsequent emergency release of dam water helped flood Brisbane.
A lawyer’s banquet!

cui bono
October 22, 2012 12:58 pm

Michael Fish wasn’t jailed.
For non-UK residents, he was the weather forecasting face of the BBC and….well, it’s a long story, but he was blamed for not alerting us to devastating gales (the ‘hurricane’) in 1987.

October 22, 2012 1:13 pm

The scientists were found guilty of claiming there would not be an earthquake, not for failing to predict it. There is an arrogance in the scientific community when it comes to scientific cynicism. There were other scientists who provided evidence that an earthquake was imminent, and then the cynics (without evidence) claimed there would not be an earthquake. I think the Italian decision was correct and warranted.
In the end, if you are in a position of authority and do not have evidence to back up your view, then you should not be giving one.

October 22, 2012 1:15 pm

I would rather be caught with errors in earthquake predictions than try to predict building standards in a given area and the percentage of structures that will fail from that distributions of standards of construction and upkeep.

Stephen Skinner
October 22, 2012 1:22 pm

According to the BBC “The seven – all members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks – were accused of having provided “inexact, incomplete and contradictory” information about the danger of the tremors felt ahead of 6 April 2009 quake, Italian media report.”
I was not aware that earthquake forecasts were available that are exact, complete and consistent. Can anyone name a single earthquake that has been forecast so as to allow people affected to move to somewhere safer?

October 22, 2012 1:40 pm

This is the apex of modern society’s inability to deal with risk–the TV culture meets the nanny state. We have doomsayers second guessing scientists, and they have no difficulty in spreading their ignorance and populist tripe to the public. The mass media lap it up and keep it coming from all sides. We have populist politicians who are brain dead to anything having to do with reality or science. And we have a society that believes life should be and can be made free from risk. The population is terrified of anything that moves, and hangs on the last word of any number of self-pronounced experts.
So, nuclear power has been banned in two referenda, power lines are cancer-causing, cell phone towers are dangerous, fracking caused tremors even though we haven’t even drilled exploratory wells yet. There are the incinerators that needlessly kill, tumors spiking next to the Taranto chemical factory, Frankenstein food laying us all low and of course, who could forget that nasty high speed train tunnel from hell in the Val di Susa? That last one is good for decades of health disasters.
Have you got something against a technology? No problem, coat it with some hysteria and float it in the media; it will certainly be picked up and flown for all to fear.
Add to this mix the Western World’s most dysfunctional system for doling out justice: this ruling is the first in what will certainly be a series of three levels of trial. Win, lose or draw everyone can appeal in our flexible halls of justice. And appeal again. In twenty years we may even get to a final judgement. It won’t matter any more, and anybody judged guilty will be sent home for health reasons anyway.
This is a gloomy day for rationality, for reason, for science. It is a kick in the teeth of human accomplishment, of human dignity. It is a sign of a society succumbing to its basest instincts of fear and ignorance. Welcome back to the Dark Ages.

October 22, 2012 1:52 pm

If the Italian appeals courts allow these convictions stand the Italian national government will likley find itself having to povide legal imunity to the positions the defendents had in order to get anyone to apply for them.

Ed Zuiderwijk
October 22, 2012 1:56 pm

From the Corriere del Mezzogiorno, edizione di Napoli, June 2017.
Journalist: Professor, can you give us advice in view of the persistent seismic activity at monte Vesuvius; should we leave town or is it safe to stay?
Professor: No comment.
Journalist: But surely you must know if or when an eruption is imminent?
Professor: No comment.
Journalist: I can’t believe you have nothing to say.
Professor: That I have: you are on your own.

October 22, 2012 1:57 pm

Remember Amanda Knox?
Italian justice is never conclusive.

October 22, 2012 2:06 pm

Perry says:
October 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm

In court, the presence of a jury is no guarantee that the judgment will be fair and accurate … Jury members can act with political and/or self-interest, as well as the judges.

October 22, 2012 2:31 pm

Given recent history, It seems to me that The Italian prisons must be full of innocent people.

Lars P.
October 22, 2012 2:39 pm

Sounds strange, but I am feeling incomplete data, something is missing from the story. The BBC is also not explaining what is indeed the case.
The media is sometime spinning stories in their ways, so when details are missing I do not feel comfortable with it.
Thinking of it, I ask myself what are the standards for building earthquake safe homes in the area? Why did all those building collapse with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake? Should buildings not be able to withstand that, or was the quake closer to the surface and thus more devastating?

Charles Sayles
October 22, 2012 2:49 pm

Opportunity for lawyers?

October 22, 2012 3:23 pm

In Italy, someone is ALWAYS responsible for each death regardless of accidental nature. As in the case of an internationally famous racing driver at San Marino in 1994. The driver went off the track unassisted, hit a wall and was killed instantly(surprisingly, the Italian authorities did not go after the wall builders!). Arrest warrants were issued for the racing team owner and mechanics, also on charges of manslaughter, although they were not Italian citizens. The case dragged through the courts for ten years and they were eventually aquitted. These scientists just need better lawyers for the appeal.
Other posters above should be careful what they wish for. Just because the Mann/Hansen/IPCC model predictions have never been fulfilled, does not mean the court tables could still be turned towards the d_____s!

October 22, 2012 3:32 pm

Welcome to Middle Ages. Results of “public education,” in your face.
The fact that Italian government paid people to predict earthquakes is bad enough.
But throwing them to prison for being not able to predict an earthquake?
I thought I couldn’t be surprised any more by the cretinism of the modern society. I was wrong.

R. de Haan
October 22, 2012 3:36 pm

This is a win for all ALARMISTS

October 22, 2012 3:50 pm

Lars et al.,
The cause of all this mess has a name and a Facebook page:
In a rational world voices like these would be relegated to padded cells filled with Napolean wannabes. Today Giuliani is feted as a hero because folks sleep in their cars for two weeks at a time, declaring that it’s better to be prepared and safe rather than listen to cynics who say we can’t predict events like earthquakes. I hope their cars are comfy, because those who listen to deluded clairvoyants like Giuliani will be spending quite a long time out of their houses.
He’s even leaving declarations of “justice done” to the eager press.
As for the building codes, unfortunately there were not very rigorous seismic construction codes following the devastating earthquakes of 1315, 1349, 1461, 1646, 1672, 1703, etc. The post-war buildings are in some cases the worst examples of how not to build in an earthquake zone. The codes are updated continuously, but new structures are relatively sparse in all Italian cities. So, most new structures will not feel the effects of these relatively strong quakes, but most of the houses are not new. It is very expensive to retrofit or reinforce existing buildings, although that is what the country is doing little by little with its historical centers.
By the way, the geology of the Italian hills means that relatively low-energy tremors are felt at the surface. The Mercalli scale gives a better idea of what’s going on in the city than simply the Richter. The Aquila quake was not your run-of-the-mill tremor.

Geoffrey Giraffe
October 22, 2012 4:02 pm

How much time will Al Gore do in pokey for causing massive energy price rises around the world with his falsified information?

October 22, 2012 5:10 pm

In the middle of Atlas Shrugged after a couple of decades, this fits right in. Moratorium on Brains.

October 22, 2012 5:27 pm

Actual Scientists (people that practice the scientific method) should not be alarmed by this ruling.
There is a LOT more to this story then the media is putting out at this time.
Let us look back to 2009.

A scientist’s claim to have forecast an earthquake that killed dozens of people in central Italy has been challenged by authorities and experts.
Italian researcher Giampaolo Giuliani said he had forecast a major quake in the area by measuring emissions of a radioactive gas, radon.
But the head of Italy’s civil protection agency dismissed the claim.
Other scientists have also cast doubt on the possibility of predicting earthquakes with any accuracy.
Shortly before Monday’s earthquake in and around the city of L’Aquila, Mr Giuliani was reported to the authorities for spreading alarm when locals apparently took fright at his warnings.

[Hard upon the news of the earthquake came news that a Giampaolo Giuliani had predicted this earthquake, had tried to warn the public, but had been muzzled by the Italian government]

Key in these (and other report) at the time are:
1. Giampaolo Giuliani was not an Earthquake Prediction Expert.
Giampaolo Giuliani was a laboratory technician at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso. As a hobby he has for some years been monitoring radon (a short-lived radioactive gas that has been implicated as an earthquake precursor) (
2. The Consensus of the Experts was that Giampaolo was not an expert and must be ignored.
These are the Experts (the people going to jail today) that silenced the non-expert:
Franco Barberi, head of Serious Risks Commission
Enzo Boschi, former president of the National Institute of Geophysics
Giulio Selvaggi, director of National Earthquake Centre
Gian Michele Calvi, director of European Centre for Earthquake Engineering
Claudio Eva, physicist
Mauro Dolce, director of the the Civil Protection Agency’s earthquake risk office
Bernardo De Bernardinis, former vice-president of Civil Protection Agency’s technical department
NOTICE: Giampaolo Giuliani is NOT in the list.
3. They are going to jail, not because they failed to predict the earthquake, they are going to jail because they colluded to prevent a Giampaolo from making a public statement that contradicted their authority.
4. Closing ranks by the ‘Scientific Community’ against the charge of suppressing a dissenting opinion did not sway the court.
[Earlier, more than 5,000 scientists signed an open letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in support of the group in the dock. (from today’s BBC story)]
In short, what has happened is:
Experts put in jail for suppressing dissent.
Experts put in jail for not forecasting an earthquake.
Holding Experts (even self proclaimed Experts) Accountable for their actions is a good thing.

Roger Knights
October 22, 2012 6:06 pm

This case pales in comparison to the failure of the Hawaii-based tsunami warning center (I don’t know its official title) to issue a warning after it detected the 9-handle Indonesia undersea earthquake.

October 22, 2012 9:43 pm

Seems nobody is allowed to say they ‘just dont know’,w hiuch w0uld have been the right thing to say by the scientists first investigating the earth tremors in Italy.
Politicians want a yes or a no, they don’t like ‘I dont know’, because they are then seen to not be doing anything (which is the correct thing to do if one doesnt know-same goes for catastrophic global warming at some distant time hence-it should be left in the h0nest catergory of ‘we just dont know’, until better evidence arrives-the evidence to date is weak and contradictory).
There is another good example of this, away from western politics. In PNG I worked for some years, and I was told that there is barely a word in the language in some places for ‘I dont know’. If you ask a question they will invariably answer ‘yes’ to everything (whether the answer is ‘yes’ or not-such as ‘did it rain this morning’-they will often say ‘yes’, even if it didn’t), rarely they will say no, and virtually never ‘I don’t know’. This is because by admitting one doesnt ‘know’ something, one is admitting weakness or failure in their culture, especially to a foreigner which admits shame, loss of face and loss of pride. Many 3rd world countries apparently have this cultural problem of never saying ‘I dont know’, so by inference, a government that has a culture where ‘I dont know’ is unacceptable is a culture of politics, face, and pride, and nothing to do with data and science.

October 22, 2012 9:59 pm

Thanks for that, Andrew30.
I’m wondering about the great silence from the USGS about very interesting, and potentially omenous activity in SoCal generally; however, not along the San Andreas from roughly Parkfield to Palm Springs. Since the Baja earthquakes in 2009 and 2010 [1,2], the Salton Sea region, the Mojave, and eastern Sierra have begun to produce very frequent small earthquakes that didn’t occur as frequently before these events.
After the baja quakes, it occurred to me the activity might move north, and if so, we would see increasing earthquakes in the region. I have been monitoring the USGS CA/NV earthquake site since. Early,on, there were few events as far north as the Salton Sea. Now they are very common. The activity more recently spread to the Mojave/Tehachapi area, and now is moving into Mammoth and western NV. Any one map view doesn’t tell the story, but watching for a few months makes the pattern emerge. Of course, events always occurred in these areas; the difference is they are more frequent now.
Interestingly, a change in earthquake reporting on the USGS site tends to hide these emerging patterns. The old CA/NV site [3] shows 1 week of events down to mag 1. The new site by default shows mag 2.5 and higher [4]. If you know to do so, you can view all events for the last 30 days down to mag 1. Then the pattern becomes pretty clear. But what it actually means is still a question.
Of course, we don’t know when the “big one” will occur. The biggest event on this segment was the 1857 Ft. Tejon earthquake [5,6]. Big earthquakes don’t occur frequently, but this heightened activity indicates SoCal is moving. Whether that means a larger segment of the San Andreas will rupture soon or not, we don’t know. Perhaps this activity only means stress is building. We already knew that.
It seems unusual the USGS is apparently avoiding the discussion. They recently denied the earthquakes in SoCal (e.g. Yorba Linda [7] and Mexicali [8]) were protentous [9,10]. Of course, that’s technically true since the science of earthquake prediction is not advanced. The Brawley swarm was discussed out of context of broader increased activity, compared to another similar swarm in 2005. I’d like to know whether the seismologists are ignoring the larger pattern (missing the forest for the trees), or honestly believe this clearly more active period has no significance regarding the likelihood of a larger event on the southern San Andreas.

Steve C
October 22, 2012 10:03 pm

Vince Causey says (October 22, 12:08 pm) ” One hopes that such a miscarriage would not happen in a true western democracy.”
Agreed. But neither Italy nor Greece is a “true western democracy” any longer. Both have had their prime ministers replaced with new world order “technocrats”, whose job it is to force through the “austerity” programmes mandated by the international banks whose policies destroyed their economies in the first place. The outward form of government remains (the technocrats have adopted the title “prime minister”), but probably only as long as they do what they’re told and support the legislation being forced on them. Expect this sort of situation to become more common.

October 22, 2012 11:02 pm

Italian justice usually follows the going popular consensus. The consensus was someone had to be blamed, evidently it should be those scientists who ‘failed at their job’.
This sentence is going to be overturned with ease in appeal. move on folks, nothing to see here.

October 22, 2012 11:26 pm

If earthquakes cannot be predicted, keep your mouth shut. Lesson learned.

October 23, 2012 12:19 am

This is indeed rather strange, but recall they are sitting on a time bomb, Mount Vesuvius, just finished a masters unit in the fate of Pompeii and Herculaneum and I can tell you, that they do have emergency evacuation procedures for just 600,000 people around the Bay of Naples where 3 million live. The area is subject to terrible earthquakes too, probably connected to MV and its tectonic and magma basin movements under the sea. In 1980 they had a very bad earthquake in Italy and ten years later 10,000 people were still to be placed in homes. What they reckon that they would have several weeks notice in Mt V exploded again? One scientist believes that that is not the case, minor seismic activity is an indication for sure, But – look at St.Helens in Washington State, well AD 79 Vesuvius eruption was hundreds of times larger. Even worse that Mt.Pele.
And they can’t get insurance in parts of Campania because of the risk factor?

John Marshall
October 23, 2012 2:57 am

To try to predict the unpredictable can only be an Italian concept. Perhaps the Mafia should have a go, they run most things in Italy.

October 23, 2012 3:46 am

You may have a (very convoluted) legal point but the public perception of the court’s decision in this case is simple:
Scientists are being jailed as scapegoats because they were “in charge of the earthquake prediction” and “failed to prevent a catastrophe”.
Reminds me of the old Russian ritual of rolling a priest over a field after crop failure. Harvest and weather are God’s business, right? Priest is in charge of communicating people’s needs to God, isn’t he? Therefore, bad harvest is priest’s failure. He was lazy or doesn’t know his trade. You cannot punish God for your privations but surely you can punish His servant! Next year God would have to pay more attention!

Stephen Fox
October 23, 2012 10:08 am

Andrew30′ s remarks are very interesting, and do open a new can of worms. Prediction of the future has always been part of politics. If it is the case that the scientists muzzled the researcher for reasons of professional pride and power, then they are paying the price for the same kind of arrogant foolishness we criticise here in the area of AGW. I’m not sure that 6 years in prison is appropriate, but maybe simple outrage at the report of ‘scientists jailed for getting it wrong’ is also misplaced.
Of course, it still smacks of an infantile society demanding that its ‘right to life’ be ‘respected’. The notion of an all-knowing scientific and political establishment that will always protect the people from harm is a childlike nonsense which is no less characteristic of modern countries in the West than in Alexander Feht’s feudal Russia.

Reply to  Stephen Fox
October 23, 2012 1:44 pm

The tragedy here is that the whole affair was caused by and is sustained by mass hysteria fueled by terrible ignorance. The scientists did not arrogantly put down some outsider possessing vital information usefully predicting a disaster. They responded in the best way they could to mass panic, partially caused by a certain scientist with a bad case of hubris.
In the month leading up to the big earthquake in Aquila there were constant tremors in the central Italian region of Abruzzo. The population in that region was living in a constant state of fear, and they were looking for reassurance from the authorities (btw, not something I would ever advise in Italy). They found no security in the official government offices, since they couldn’t say much about what would be coming down the pike. There was one voice, however, sounding the alarm: our now famous Mr. Giuliani, who was working on earthquake prediction schemes in his free time in a national nuclear physics lab, was picked up by all the local and national media warning of an imminent earthquake that would devastate the territory. He had just the right mix of qualities to be hailed by the terrified populace: a scientist with a reasonable sounding predictive method, an outsider, an underdog, and enough arrogance to prove he could stand up to The Man.
Now, I believe Mr. Giuliani’s analyses may have something to offer seismology, but I also think it’s best we leave it to the experts to decide whether or not they can be incorporated into a useful system. All we know is, Mr. Giuliani’s warnings disseminated panic in Abruzzo. Just so we’re not splitting hairs here: Giuliani declared (and still declares) that his system PREDICTS events and magnitudes to a time resolution of 6 to 24 hours with 80% accuracy. I’m not aware of declarations regarding spatial resolution, but clearly the man is way off base with respect to seismology.
On the last Sunday of March he was put through the police in direct telephone contact with the mayor of Sulmona, in Rome at the time, who was quickly alerted that there would be a devastating quake in his city within hours! What’s a mayor to do? Evacuate the town? Sound the alarm? Call the wife? It doesn’t really matter what the mayor should have done, though, since he was probably the last one to hear the warning; the city was already delirious with panic.
Naturally, Sunday passed, Monday passed…more than a week passed, and the tremors continued. Mr. Giuliani was served papers for inciting public unrest. The Big Risk Commission met and mumbled something to the public about how they can’t predict earthquakes, but that the constant low energy events are releasing enough pressure not to worry too much. That’s not enough for panicky people, especially when Giuliani is becoming something of a martyr and folk hero.
Then Aquila collapses. And guess who gets to say “I told you so”? Naturally the hero is washed off, the villains who would not listen to this simple voice crying out with true prophecies are dragged into the gutter. Anyone who was still sleeping in the car now is vindicated, since these are the people who survived their houses’ collapse.
For the same reason we gamble our money away part of the local population signed on to the martyr/prophet/David/Goliath story and sticks to it ’till today. Yesterday there were victims’ families dancing and crying in the streets of Aquila for the justice they were so justly served.
So, you have a guy with a hunch and some really cool radon sensors who correctly predicted the destruction of a town–except that the big event occurred ten days late and 85km away from what he foresaw. How useful do you think his instrument is? What purpose can it serve with this sort of accuracy? Or was it just luck–everybody and his grandmother was screaming “Big One” at the time.
One local official put it best when he asked dryly after the event what would have happened if the city of Sulmona had heeded Giuliani’s call and evacuated? Most likely half the population would have been with relatives in Aquila.

October 23, 2012 12:29 pm

Stephen Fox says: October 23, 2012 at 10:08 am
[Andrew30′ s remarks are very interesting, and do open a new can of worms. ]
Stephen, Experts suppressing the analysis of informed people is not new.
It blew up Challenger in 1986.
However no one went to jail, so the jail part is new

October 23, 2012 12:56 pm

Alexander Feht says: October 23, 2012 at 3:46 am
[You may have a (very convoluted) legal point but the public perception of the court’s decision in this case is simple]
You may have a (very convoluted) legal point but the Medias’ presentation to the public in this case is simple.
The public can only perceive what is exposed and remembered. Few people remember that Mr. Giuliani was reported to the authorities for spreading alarm when locals apparently took fright at his warnings, which was way back in 2009.
You can’t see something that is not there, except of course CAGW since it is part of the Medias’ presentation to the public.
[Reminds me of the old Russian ritual of rolling a priest over a field after crop failure]
I disagree. I think that it is more like rolling a priest over a field after crop failure because the priest said that there was no need conserve water for irrigation because God had told him there was lots of snow in the mountains and the priest had told the people they should ignore the trapper that just returned from the mountains since he was no an Expert on Gods will.
The Experts did not fail to act, they acted, and they dismissed a reasoned and informed non-expert.
If the Experts had done nothing then the people that ‘took fright at his warning’ may have lived.
You and the media don’t seem to see what I see.

Lars P.
October 23, 2012 12:56 pm

Andrew30 says:
October 22, 2012 at 5:27 pm
Andrew30, thank you for the explanation and the detailed post. From the link posted I found some interesting information:
It would have been helpful for the CNN audience to know that Giuliani did not correctly predict where the quake would strike. He thought it would hit the town of Sulmona, some 30 miles to the south of L’Aquila, the actual location.
He was also wrong on the date — by a week. He predicted the quake would strike March 29, only to see that day come and go with no significant seismic event.
So if officials had heeded his warnings as Sanchez insisted they should have, they would have evacuated the wrong town on the wrong day.

Scientists have recognized for years that some seismic events, such as the release of radon gas and small tremors, often precede an earthquake, but say those events are so common they are not a reliable predictor of major events.
“We do know that some earthquakes, including the L’Aquila event, have foreshocks, but we can’t sound alarm bells every time little earthquakes happen because the overwhelming majority–95 percent or so –will not indicate a coming major quake,” Hough wrote. ”
Indeed as somebody said above, welcome to the dark ages. Maybe after another 5 years from which 3 slept in cars the italians will reach different conclusions?

October 23, 2012 2:04 pm

I hear you but media doesn’t, and the “public” (the indiscriminate and ignorant mass of morons, mountebanks and marauders that constitutes the bloody kindergarten some over-generous souls prefer to call “society”) sees nothing beyond what media tells it.
Also, as you may have derived from a couple of posts above, your case is not as clean-cut as you prefer to see it.

October 23, 2012 2:16 pm

Also, just to make sure we are not missing the point. These men were not found guilty of “suppressing dissent” or any other such non-crimes. They were found guilty of manslaughter. They are declared responsible for allowing the deaths of several hundred Aquilani because they did not sound a warning to the population. In the judge’s words they released “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” to the population.

October 23, 2012 4:06 pm

Lars P. says: October 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm
“He was also wrong on the date — by a week. He predicted the quake would strike March 29, only to see that day come and go with no significant seismic event.
So if officials had heeded his warnings as Sanchez insisted they should have, they would have evacuated the wrong town on the wrong day.”

Yes I saw that also. I included the link (knowing that is contained CNN spin) because it was in English.
The ‘spin above’ is:
1. ‘Off by a week’, in fact off by 1 day of a quake but 7 days from a much larger quake.
2. ‘30 miles’ off, check the news below.
3. He did not persist with his message because they would have arrested him.
Here is some non-English links from a more local daily paper.
April 1st 2009 (after the first quake, off by one day and 40 miles)
April 6th (Just after the main quake)
“Today, after the tragedy, Giuliani speaks with bitterness: “There is a risk that tomorrow they put me in jail – he says – but confirm it is not true, is false, that earthquakes do not can foresee.” [Google translation]
Look in to local news from April 1-6 2009. If he had persisted with his message he would have been jailed.
22 Oct 2012 (on the verdict)
They were all convicted of manslaughter and injury to six years’ imprisonment for seven members of the Major Risks Committee, accused of having minimized the dangers in the days prior to the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009. During a meeting on March 31, 2009, a week before the earthquake, they decided to reassure the population rather than raise the alarm and ordered the evacuation. [Google translation]
There were not convicted of failing to forecasting the main earthquake, they were convicted of “having minimized the dangers in the days prior to the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009”. They were convinced for what they Did, not for Something That They Failed To Do.

October 23, 2012 5:17 pm

When they’re in jail and if an earth quake happens and they are killed who’s to blame for that? If they predict an earth quake that will destroy the prison they’re in, will they be let free?

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