The ability to successfully predict the future behavior of a system is a strong indication that the system is well understood. Certainly many details of the earthquake system remain obscure, but several hypotheses related to earthquake occurrence and seismic hazard have been proffered, and predicting earthquake behavior is a worthy goal and demanded by society. Along these lines, one of the primary objectives of the Regional Earthquake Likelihood Models (RELM) working group was to formalize earthquake occurrence hypotheses in the form of prospective earthquake rate forecasts in California. RELM members, working in small research groups, developed more than a dozen 5-year forecasts; they also outlined a performance evaluation method and provided a conceptual description of a Testing Center in which to perform predictability experiments. Subsequently, researchers working within the Collaboratory for the Study of Earthquake Predictability (CSEP) have begun implementing Testing Centers in different locations worldwide, and the RELM predictability experiment-a truly prospective earthquake prediction effort-is underway within the U. S. branch of CSEP. The experiment, designed to compare time-invariant 5-year earthquake rate forecasts, is now approximately halfway to its completion. In this paper, we describe the models under evaluation and present, for the first time, preliminary results of this unique experiment. While these results are preliminary-the forecasts were meant for an application of 5 years-we find interesting results: most of the models are consistent with the observation and one model forecasts the distribution of earthquakes best. We discuss the observed sample of target earthquakes in the context of historical seismicity within the testing region, highlight potential pitfalls of the current tests, and suggest plans for future revisions to experiments such as this one. ?? 2010 The Author(s).
Additional publication details
First Results of the Regional Earthquake Likelihood Models Experiment