Scientists can say where major earthquakes are likely to occur, based on the movement of the plates in the earth and the location of fault zones. They can also make general guesses of when they might occur in a certain area, by looking at the history of earthquakes in the region and detecting where pressure is building along fault lines. These predictions are extremely vague, however — typically on the order of decades. Scientists have had more success predicting aftershocks, additional quakes following an initial earthquake. These predictions are based on extensive research of aftershock patterns. Seismologists can make a good guess of how an earthquake originating along one fault will cause additional earthquakes in connected faults. Another area of study is the relationship between magnetic and electrical charges in rock material and earthquakes. Some scientists have hypothesized that these electromagnetic fields change in a certain way just before an earthquake. Seismologists are also studying gas seepage and the tilting of the ground as warning signs of earthquakes. For the most part, however, they can’t reliably predict earthquakes with any precision.
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