The Great Debate UK
-Professor Kees Vuik is a professor, and Mehfooz ur Rehman is a PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology. The opinions expressed are their own.-
The Haiti earthquake was a truly appalling tragedy and it is little wonder that the United Nations has described it as the worst humanitarian disaster it has faced in its history. The 2010 earthquake follows several earlier ones, including in 1751, 1770, 1842 and 1946, which have struck the island of Hispaniola (the tenth most populous island in the world) which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republican.
While world attention is rightly focusing now upon the aid effort in the country, much media coverage has so far obscured the fact that the science of earthquake prediction is improving and holds much promise in the next few years. While this will be of no solace for the people of Haiti, what this means in practice is that scientists might be able in the not-too-distant future to provide warnings for at least some similar events, thus helping to minimise loss and life and wider devastation.
Predicting earthquakes was once thought to be impossible owing to the difficulty of calculating the motion of rocky mantle flows. However, thanks to an algorithm created by the Delft University of Technology, we now know that it is possible to model these underground streams.