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Data is transforming our understanding of natural disasters

A Stanford professor details how new types of data collection and faster computers are helping our knowledge of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes – and how to prepare for them.
Photo of a cracked asphalt road after an earthquake.
Preparation is key. | iStock/Naypong

Humans have been trying to predict when earthquakes will happen for centuries, with little success, by developing earthquake detectors and by wondering if unusual animal behavior could be a sign of an incoming temblor.

In this episode of Stanford Engineering’s The Future of Everything, Eric Dunham, a geophysicist at Stanford University, explains that while we’re still unable to predict when earthquakes will happen, advanced computers and new sensors on the seafloor are pushing the field of natural-hazard modelling forward and providing new information about the nature of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Dunham and host, bioengineer Russ Altman, discuss how this modeling could help us understand where large earthquakes and tsunamis are likely to happen – and how it could help us prepare for these potentially devastating events. 

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