Big Data’s Next Big Frontier: Earthquake Prediction

big data
Big Data’s Next Big Frontier

There are lots of really fascinating applications coming out the big data space as of late, and I recently came across one that really may be the coolest of the coolest. There’s a UK-based firm that is employing big data to help predict earthquakes.

Unfortunately, predicting earthquakes thus far has been almost impossible. Imagine if people living in an earthquake zone could get at least several hours’ notice, maybe even several days, just as those in the paths of hurricanes can advanced warning and can flee or prepare. Hurricane and storm modeling is one of the earliest examples of big data in action, going back decades. The big data revolution may now be on the verge of earthquake prediction modeling as well.

Bernard Marr, in a recent Forbes post, explains how Terra Seismic employs satellite data to sense impending shakers:

“The systems use data from US, European and Asian satellite services, as well as ground based instruments, to measure abnormalities in the atmosphere caused by the release of energy and the release of gases, which are often detectable well before the physical quake happens. Large volumes of satellite data are taken each day from regions where seismic activity is ongoing or seems imminent. Custom algorithms analyze the satellite images and sensor data to extrapolate risk, based on historical facts of which combinations of circumstances have previously led to dangerous quakes.”

So far, Marr reports, Terra Seismic has been able to predict major earthquakes anywhere in the world with 90% accuracy. Among them is a prediction, issued on February 22nd, that a 6.5-magnitude quake would hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The island was hit by a 6.4-magnitude quake on March 3rd.

There’s no question that the ability to accurately forecast earthquakes – at least as closely as hurricanes and major blizzards can be predicted – will not only save many human lives, but also be invaluable to government agencies and businesses as well.

At the same time, such creative – and potentially and game-changing – applications of big data provide very graphic examples of how data is converted to insights that were never possible before. Many business leaders are looking for ways to shine a light on potential events within their organizations and markets, and examples such as Terra Seismic accentuate the positive benefits big data can deliver.

Terra Seismic’s forecasts are available through a public website: