It’s a close, oppressive day, perhaps hot and humid, with clouds appearing overhead and no rain in sight. People may look at such a day as typical earthquake weather, a term used to describe weather patterns that suggest an earthquake might be forthcoming. Actually there’s no such thing, and a general study of the pattern and occurrences of earthquakes show they occur in all seasons, all temperatures, all times of the day, and in many different weather patterns.
Aristotle, the philosopher and intellectual, surmised that earthquakes were caused by winds in caves, and as such, there was specific weather that indicated them. This is definitely not the case. Like most people, Aristotle was looking to explain things that were mysteries by making logical hypotheses. Since Aristotle, many people have pointed to various weather signs to predict earthquakes.
While weather patterns may not cause earthquakes, they may influence the amount of damage caused by one. Prior to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, several months of heavy rain had caused the ground beneath structures to become soft, translating to greater shaking of buildings and more overall damage. The rains didn’t cause the earthquake, but they made its result more severe.
In recent studies, a theory that is gaining greater acceptance is that slight differentiations in thermal temperature, as viewed by satellite, may end up being a good predictor of certain types of earthquakes. These changes in temperature have occurred before some of the major earthquakes in the late 20th and early 21st century, and a body of evidence is being gathered that might someday help to predict earthquakes. Thermal changes tend to occur only a few hours before earthquakes, don’t tend to affect the weather, and may not offer enough time to allow for earthquake warnings.
As yet, scientists have no reliable predictors for earthquakes, and they are far removed from predicting just how bad an earthquake might be. Scientists rely on probabilities rather than predictions. For instance, it is probable that San Francisco is likely to have a large earthquake, which has been called “The Big One” for over 30 years. What is probable is not always predictable. General statements from seismologists now focus on statements like, “We’re sure it will happen, but don’t know when.”
Instead of using signs of earthquake weather as a guide for predicting earthquakes, it makes more sense for people who live in earthquake-prone areas to always be ready for one. There are many Internet sites that focus on earthquake preparedness, and they can give people a little peace of mind if they feel nervous about the chances of one happening.