Improving crisis prediction, disaster control and damage reduction

September 14, 2010

Washington, D.C. (September 14, 2010) -- Some disasters and crises are related to each other by more than just the common negative social value we assign to them. For example, earthquakes, homicide surges, magnetic storms, and the U.S. economic recession are all kindred of a sort, according to a theoretical framework presented in the journal CHAOS, which is published by the American Institute of Physics.

The researchers who developed this framework contend that these four types of events share a precursory development pattern -- a specific change of scale in indicators that can be tracked. They suggest that detecting this pattern could improve crisis prediction.

"Knowing the patterns of extreme events development is pivotal both for predictive understanding of these events and for enhancing disaster preparedness," says investigator Vladimir Keilis-Borok of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Adds his colleague Alexander Soloviev of the Russian Academy of Sciences: "A premonitory pattern common to four complex systems of different nature is probably a manifestation of a certain general feature of complex systems."

To mathematicians who probe complexity, extreme events grow out of the dynamic interplay of indicators representing a complex process. A system may give off signals that deep shift is afoot. A change of scaling is a "premonitory pattern" indicating a coming extreme event. This manifests as a shift in pattern -- large events that were once infrequent begin to occur closer and closer together (similar to the way that the tempo of "Jaws" soundtrack increases in anticipation of a shark attack).

That systems as diverse as an earthquake, surge in homicides, economic recession and magnetic storm can share a developmental pattern is not as surprising as it may at first seem. Systems are deep as well as dynamic: shift happens -- and can, to a large extent, be predicted to save and improve lives.
-end-
The article, "Variations of trends of indicators describing complex systems: Change of scaling precursory to extreme events" by Vladimir Keilis-Borok (University of California, Los Angeles) and Alexandre Soloviev (International Institute of Earthquake Prediction Theory and Mathematical Geophysics, Russian Academy of Sciences) appears in the journal CHAOS. http://link.aip.org/link/chaoeh/v20/i3/p033104/s1

Journalists may request a free PDF of this article by contacting jbardi@aip.org

ABOUT CHAOS

Chaos is an interdisciplinary journal of non-linear science. The journal is published quarterly by the American Institute of Physics and is devoted to increasing the understanding of nonlinear phenomena and describing the manifestations in a manner comprehensible to researchers from a broad spectrum of disciplines. Special focus issues are published periodically each year and cover topics as diverse as the complex behavior of the human heart to chaotic fluid flow problems. See: http://chaos.aip.org/

ABOUT AIP

The American Institute of Physics is a federation of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the world's largest publishers of scientific information in the physical sciences. Offering partnership solutions for scientific societies and for similar organizations in science and engineering, AIP is a leader in the field of electronic publishing of scholarly journals. AIP publishes 12 journals (some of which are the most highly cited in their respective fields), two magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Its online publishing platform Scitation hosts nearly two million articles from more than 185 scholarly journals and other publications of 28 learned society publishers.

American Institute of Physics

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