Roman seismologist prediction of major earthquake in Italy fails

Posted May 11, 2011 by Andrew Moran
Raffaele Bendandi, a self-taught seismologist who died in 1976, predicted a devastating earthquake to hit Rome on May 11, 2011. Although nothing disastrous occurred, 22 minor temblors hit the quake-prone nation of Italy.
Self-taught seismologst Raffaele Bendandi
Self-taught seismologst Raffaele Bendandi
Strong earthquakes have been ravaging the planet this year causing billions of dollars worth of damage, extreme amounts of deaths and leading to those who do not understand seismology to ask: what is going on?
One self-taught pseudoscientist, Raffaele Bendandi, allegedly predicted before his death in 1976 that a devastating earthquake was going to strike Rome on Wednesday. By noon, 22 very minor quakes shook up Italy, but none of them were the strong temblors Bendandi foretold, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Nonetheless, thousands left Rome as a precaution. In one neighborhood near the city’s central train station, many storefronts were closed off and those who feared disaster escaped to the nation’s countryside, reports the Canadian Press.
Although there are dubious claims made all the time, researcher Alberto Michelini is glad that these proclamations are made because then people in his field can “take advantage of this moment of fear and psychosis to try to explain what we do.”
Two questions have arisen Wednesday: Did Bendandi even make such a prediction? Can seismologists predict earthquakes?
Did he say it?
Rome: Bird s eye view
Rome: Bird's eye view
Fox News reports that the president of the association in charge of Bendandi's documentation, Paolo Lagorio, is unaware of his prediction and is doubtful that he even made such statements prior to his death because there is no evidence of it.
University of Kent sociology senior lecturer, Adam Burgess, stated that these kinds of rumors occur because of uncertainty and a paucity of trust towards government. In this case, Burgess notes, this is a reflection of how Italians feel toward their government, reports CBC News.
“In the Italian context this might be exacerbated by the more typical experience of the Italian state where even laws and legislation that are passed will often mean very little in practice,” said Burgess.
Can it be predicted?
BBC News notes that Bendandi’s prediction was based on the movement of the moon, the planets and the sun, but is this even possible?
Scientists do not believe it is possible to forecast earthquakes because of the randomness of temblors. “Despite huge efforts and great advances in our understanding of earthquakes, there are no good examples of an earthquake being successfully predicted in terms of where, when and how big,” said head of seismology at the British Geological Survey, Brian Baptie.
Furthermore, those who have utilized certain methods to predict earthquakes have been scrutinized and discredited within the scientific community because they contain “little basis and merely cause public alarm.”
Although very short-term earthquake predictions (30 seconds) are definitely possible, long-range prediction is much more difficult, but it can lead to seismologists to state that certain regions are long overdue for a strong quake, including the western United States and the recently-hit Japan.
According to the London Telegraph, Bendandi has been correct in previous predictions. He made front-page headlines after he predicted the 1915 Avezzano earthquake, which caused 30,000 deaths. His forecast was off by two days and it struck the region of Le Marche.