Earthquake experts from Italy, California, New Zealand and Japan think they can now calculate the odds of earthquakes striking thanks to a new study.
And the ability to predict when and where an earthquake will strike could save lives.
Seismologist Warner Marzocchi, from Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (Ingv), said: “We cannot say if there will be an earthquake tomorrow, but we can calculate the odds.”
The statement comes off the back of the Collaboratory for the Study of Earthquake Predictability (CSEP) – an international effort to curb the disastrous effects of earthquakes.
Since 2007, the CSEP has been tasked with building and testing tremor prediction models in Japan, Europe, California, New Zealand and a number of labs around the globe.
CSEP scientists in Italy have now analysed and published data collected between 2009 and 2014 to determine the probabilities of earthquakes.
According to Mr Marzocchi, if there is a five percent earthquake probability, “this means that on average once in 20 there will be an earthquake in those particular conditions.”
The expert added seismologists will now further look at the data collected and the forecasts made to identify the most efficient model of prediction.
There are currently three CSEP earthquake experiments well underway, evaluating one-day, three-month and five-year earthquake forecasts.
Among the collected data, the Italian scientists looked at the tragic 2012 Emilia Romagna earthquake which claimed the lives of 27 people.
The Italian scientists will also look at the even deadlier August 2016 earthquake which killed nearly 300 people in central Italy.
Danijel Schorlemmer, German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam, said: “The fundamental idea of CSEP is simple in principle but complex in practice: forecasting models should be tested against future observations to assess their performance, thereby ensuring an unbiased test of the forecasting power of a model.”
However according to the United States Geological Survey, the official US authority on earthquakes and volcanoes, truly forecasting earthquakes without any doubt is impossible.
Acceding to the USGS there is no technology capable of doing this in the “foreseeable future”.
The agency said: “Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake.
“We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.