Sizing up Slovenia's seismic situation

13-10-2006

Slovenia regularly gets a bit of a shake-up from earthquakes. The last big one in 1998 caused severe damage to several hundred homes and every year there are around ten minor to moderate tremors. Until now Slovenia has not had an extensive seismic monitoring network. But that has just changed with the opening of a nationwide network of observatories.

Michael Manske was at the launch and spoke to Professor Peter Suhadolc, secretary general of the International Association of Seismology and Physics. He asked him about the current seismic situation in Slovenia:

"The picture has changed considerably. In 1999, there were only 2 to 3 seismological stations in Slovenia. They were totally unprepared to detect a bigger earthquake like the 1998 one. In fact, the first information came from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia network [of northeastern Italy] which then provided the information to Slovenian colleagues and authorities. Today Slovenia is covered by 25 broadband measuring stations, which can immediately (in less than a minute) locate any earthquake bigger than 1.5 on the territory of Slovenia, or even in parts of Austria, northern Croatia and northeast Italy. The picture has improved considerably. The density of seismological stations in Slovenia is among the densest in Europe and even in the world - comparable to station density in parts of California and Japan."

If I understood correctly, they won't be able to predict earthquakes, but gather a lot of data that will allow us to pinpoint risk areas. Is that correct?

"Totally correct. In fact, the predicting of earthquakes today is an impossible job and I don't think we'll be able to predict earthquakes in the future. We know the location of possible earthquakes but we don't know the time they will occur."

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