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KAZAKHSTAN JOINS THE GLOBAL NETWORK FOR THE FORECASTING OF EARTHQUAKES


Special exclusive interview of GNFE President  Prof. Dr. E.N.KHALILOV
for  "KAZAKHSTAN TODAY", 
14.12.2009 )

 An international seminar titled "Efficiency, problems and development prospects of the international system of earthquake forecasting" was held from December 1 to December 8, 2009 in Baku, Azerbaijan. At the same time as the seminar, a board meeting of the Global Network for the Forecasting of Earthquakes (GNFE) took place on December 3 and 4, 2009.

 Which countries were represented at the international scientific seminar and GNFE Board meeting?

Among the seminar and Global Network Board session participants were scientists from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Austria; official delegations from the governments of Pakistan and Indonesia (five persons from each country); a representative of Central Department for Study of Earthquakes and Emergency Situations at the Prime Minister of Turkey and a high-ranking representative of the Kazakhstan Ministry of Emergency Situations.

 On December 5, a joint session of the Presidium of Azerbaijan Section of International Academy of Science and GNFE Board took place presided by Professor Walter Kofler (Austria), President of the International Academy of Science.

 What decisions relating to Kazakhstan were made at GNFE Board meeting?

Based on a written application by the Republic of Kazakhstan's Ministry of Emergency Situations, GNFE Board have decided that the Republic of Kazakhstan be included in GNFE as a temporary associate member with membership fee exemption for a 6-month probation period. The signing date of an international agreement between GNFE and Kazakhstan Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) is set as the starting date for Kazakhstan's GNFE membership.

In the scientific seminar and GNFE Board meeting participated Head of Almaty Department of Emergency Situations of Kazakhstan MES, Major General, candidate of technical sciences Damir Kasymbekovich Khalikov. Mr. D.K.Khalikov presented at the seminar a scholarly report titled "Seismic safety of Almaty" which evoked a great interest among the seminar participants.

In his speech, Head of Central Department on prevention of emergency situations of Azerbaijan MES Elshad Huseynov conveyed to the seminar participants a greeting from Azerbaijan's Minister of Emergency Situations, Colonel General K.Geydarov.

What is meant by the expression "as a temporary associate member with membership fee exemption for a 6-month probation period"?

I would like to explain that participants that are members of the Global Network for the Forecasting of Earthquakes divide into three types enjoying different status:

1. Full members which are countries owning ATROPATENA international earthquake forecast stations. Those countries possess the general license of the Global Network for a 10-year period. That is to say, full members within 10 years are exempt from paying annual membership fees and enjoy a full voting status in GNFE Board. Besides, any modernization in the station's technology for those countries including both software and hardware devices is carried out free of charge throughout ten years. And that is a very important factor. As an example, I can refer to the fact that since February 2009 up to now the software installed on the Pakistani earthquake forecast station has already been updated twice and a number of the station's electronic units will be replaced gratis with improved ones within three months.

2. Associate members are countries which do not own ATROPATENA stations, but pay membership fees annually. Those countries enjoy full access to the Global Network's central database in which information from all stations is recorded real-time. Besides, those countries are provided with software for data analysis and interpretation; specialists from those countries are duly trained in GNFE Educational Center and awarded with "GNFE Expert" international certificate. Associate members can vote in an advisory capacity on the Global Network Board. Following its acquisition of an ATROPATENA international station, an associate member passes into the full member category.

3. Temporary associate member status with exemption from paying membership fees for a 6-month probation period is granted to countries according to their wish until their admission to the Global Network on a permanent basis. Within 6 months, a temporary associate member country enjoys the same rights as an associate member. This six-month period is intended so that the country's specialists can get familiarized in more detail with the new earthquake forecast technology used by GNFE and, along with other participants, directly participate in the forecasting of earthquakes and their efficiency analysis. After the six-month period is over, the country must make a decision on whether to become a permanent member of GNFE or withdraw from GNFE.

What problems were considered at the scientific seminar?

First of all, a keynote address by GNFE General Director E.Khalilov titled "First results of the activity of the Global Network for the Forecasting of Earthquakes" was heard. The address said that from August 1, 2009 when GNFE started functioning at full scale, and until present the Global Network had officially provided 35 forecasts for strong and moderate earthquakes with a magnitude exceeding 5 according to the Richter scale (not to be confused with 12- point MSK64 scale). The statistics for confirmed forecasts is 90%. The forecasts given to the governments of Pakistan and Indonesia via GNFE governmental coordinators in those countries were reported in detail.

Among those at the seminar to deliver their reports on the positive results of application of ATROPATENA international stations were deputy director of the Pakistani scientific center for earthquake study Doctor Muhammad Gaisar, director of ATROPATENA international station in Indonesia Professor Widodo and GNFE regional director in Indonesia Professor Wahudi. The speakers stated that earthquake forecast results were good and informed the audience of existing urgent issues and possible ways of their resolution.

A report by Czech seismologists Doctor Pavel Kalenda and Libor Newmon was also met with a great interest. They told of registering of tectonic waves using a device they have invented, which measures changes of stress state in underground mines or caves. The results obtained by the Czech scientists actually confirmed GNFE conclusions about pre-strong earthquake registration of tectonic waves radiated by earthquake focuses. Another interesting report at the scientific seminar came from Doctor Ramida Keramova, Head of department of the Republican Center of Seismological Service of Azerbaijan. Ms.R.Keramova has developed an interesting technique of forecasting earthquakes by means of geochemical analysis of water. Interestingly, R.Keramova's scientific conclusions in many respects coincided with the main conclusions by both GNFE and the Czech scientists on possibility of registration of precursors and prediction of strong earthquakes at huge distances of up to 10,000 km away from the focus of the expected earthquake.

However convincing was the information about GNFE forecasts?

Let me start with which forecast parameters are provided by GNFE. In its forecasts, the Global Network gives the following parameters as mandatory ones: earthquake index in GNFE database; forecast probability (usually 90% or higher); forecast issue date and time; initial and final date of the period during which an earthquake is expected; coordinates of the central point of the predicted area; radius of the predicted area; magnitude (usually ≥5); and number of expected shocks.

Perhaps, the most important innovation of the new technology is prediction of the number of expected earthquakes. This task is thought to be so difficult that it has never been set before seismology in regard to earthquake forecasting. Nevertheless, this problem has been successfully solved in the new technology and its efficiency has been confirmed statistically (over 85%). It should be noted that never before did the employment of even most advanced traditional methods of earthquake forecasting make it possible to overstep the 65% boundary.

However, I would like to tell you of a very spectacular event which took place during the seminar and training with the Pakistani and Indonesian delegations and dispelled all doubts about the efficiency of GNFE technology. In the course of the training and seminar when the latest ATROPATENA station records received in real time from the central database in the USA were being analyzed, a forecast was made as a learning task. The forecast said that an earthquake with ≥5,5 magnitude(the occurrence was anticipated for December 2-10) was expected in northern Pakistan. Of course, the forecast's result puzzled the Pakistani delegation, but this forecast was officially published on GNFE official website during the seminar. One can only imagine the satisfaction of all the seminar participants who learned during the following seminar days that the forecast had proven to be accurate and an earthquake with 5,4 magnitude had occurred on December 6 in northern Pakistan. The earthquake's epicenter actually turned out to be in the central point of the predicted area. It is hard to produce a more convincing proof of the Global Network's forecasting efficiency to the seminar participants who together made that forecast as a solution to the learning task provided by GNFE.

What are further prospects of GNFE development?

As for technological prospects, I would like to say a few words of the new modification of ATROPATENA station which is to record five channels instead of three recorded by the previous models. The new station will allow to determine the direction towards the epicenter of a predicted earthquake much more precisely than its predecessors did.

The software placed on the Global Network's internet site as an operating tool is another technological innovation. This program employing a non-standard mathematical approach allows to calculate within few minutes the coordinates of a predicted earthquake and displays the epicenter on an interactive world map. To calculate the coordinates, specialists use the parameters obtained in the course of analyzing gravitograms recorded by ATROPATENA stations. The program's presentation and testing were carried out during the scientific seminar and training of specialists from different countries, participating in the seminar. The program's testing results turned out very convincing and were met with general approval. Improvement of this and other software products which considerably increase earthquake forecast efficiency will be encouraged by GNFE administration in every way possible.

In a resolution adopted by GNFE Board it was decided to open in the first half of 2010 a Residency for Near and Middle East and Southern Europe in Ankara, Turkey. The Residency is headed by GNFE Vice-President on international affairs Dr. Bertan Goger elected by the Board. Also appointed were regional representatives in Istanbul and the USA, GNFE Executive Director in London, regional directors in Pakistan and Indonesia.

Besides, new compositions of GNFE Board, Scientific Technical Council, Editorial Council of the yearly multivolume edition "GNFE Transactions" as well as of the organizing committee of an international conference on earthquake forecasting planned to be held in 2011 in Ankara, Turkey, were approved.

It was further decided to set up in 2010 an experimental production center in Istanbul for making and testing of ATROPATENA stations.

I regard the beginning of the process of Turkey's joining the Global Network for the Forecasting of Earthquakes discussed in detail with a Turkish government representative, as an event of extreme significance.

According to some preliminary projections based on negotiations with government representatives from different countries, there is going to be no less than 10 world countries participating in GNFE until the end of 2010. It is a very important factor since the growth in the number of ATROPATENA stations will entail a considerable increase of earthquake forecast precision.

 

Prof. Dr. Elchin Khalilov,

GNFE President