Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
The tragic earthquake that occurred in Japan on March 11, 2011, once again reminds me of the importance of being sensitive in our roles as seismologists regarding the human tragedy caused by powerful earthquakes. It is always a challenge for seismologists to find the correct balance among conveying scientific information about “interesting” earthquakes, communicating our amazement at the incredible power of natural forces in the Earth, and remembering to be sensitive about the human tragedy caused by large earthquakes. But the scientific study of earthquakes is not just fascinating, it’s also practical. Through scientific research on earthquakes we can take positive action that leads to making people safer from the devastating effects of earthquakes. We can mitigate some of the consequences of earthquakes through increasing our understanding of the causes of earthquakes, improving seismic hazard mapping, building more seismically resistant buildings, and developing better emergency management plans to help the victims when tragic earthquakes do strike.
It is important in our roles as seismologists and educators not to forget that the phenomenon we study, and find to be so fascinating, has such tragic consequences for people. But that fascination with the incredible power of earthquakes also inspires people to study them and to unravel their mysteries so that we can take positive action to minimize their tragic consequences.