A test to evaluate the earthquake prediction algorithm, M8

Open-File Report 92-401

, , and



A test of the algorithm M8 is described. The test is constructed to meet four rules, which we propose to be applicable to the test of any method for earthquake prediction:  

1. An earthquake prediction technique should be presented as a well documented, logical algorithm that can be used by  investigators without restrictions.

2. The algorithm should be coded in a common programming language and implementable on widely available computer systems.

3. A test of the earthquake prediction technique should involve future predictions with a black box version of the algorithm in which potentially adjustable parameters are fixed in advance. The source of the input data must be defined and ambiguities in these data must be resolved automatically by the algorithm.

4. At least one reasonable null hypothesis should be stated  in advance of testing the earthquake prediction method, and it should be stated how this null hypothesis will be used to estimate the statistical significance of the earthquake predictions.

The M8 algorithm has successfully predicted several destructive  earthquakes, in the sense that the earthquakes occurred inside regions with linear dimensions from 384 to 854 km that the algorithm had identified as being in times of increased probability for strong earthquakes. In addition, M8 has successfully "post predicted" high percentages of strong earthquakes in regions to which it has been applied in retroactive studies. The statistical significance of previous predictions has not been established, however, and post-prediction studies in general are notoriously subject to success-enhancement through hindsight. Nor has it been determined how much more precise an M8 prediction might be than forecasts and probability-of-occurrence estimates made by other techniques. We view our test of M8 both as a means to better determine the effectiveness of M8 and as an experimental structure within which to make observations that might lead to improvements in the algorithm or conceivably lead to a radically different approach to earthquake prediction.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
A test to evaluate the earthquake prediction algorithm, M8
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Report: 23 p., Appendixes