Science: Predicting Quakes: a Shaky Art

Why seismologists usually cannot tell when shocks mil strike

On a bitterly cold day in February 1975, the Communist Party chiefs in Haicheng, a city in northeastern China, convened in emergency session. They had just learned from seismologists that various signs, including changes in the water level of wells, pointed to an imminent earthquake. Convinced the threat was real, they issued an order to evacuate all homes and hospitals, close down shops and factories and turn off gas mains and furnaces.

That night, while thousands huddled in open fields or watched special film showings...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!