Hypothesis Testing and Earthquake Prediction

David D. Jackson

Published April 30, 1996, SCEC Contribution #321

Requirements for testing include advance specification of the conditional rate density (probability per unit time, area, and magnitude) or, alternatively, probabilities for specified intervals of time, space, and magnitude. Here I consider testing fully specified hypotheses, with no parameter adjustments or arbitrary decisions allowed during the test period. Because it may take decades to validate prediction methods, it is worthwhile to formulate testable hypotheses carefully in advance. Earthquake prediction generally implies that the probability will be temporarily higher than normal. Such a statement requires knowledge of "normal behavior"---that is, it requires a null hypothesis. Hypotheses can be tested in three ways: (i) by comparing the number of actual earthquakes to the number predicted, (ii) by comparing the likelihood score of actual earthquakes to the predicted distribution, and (iii) by comparing the likelihood ratio to that of a null hypothesis. The first two tests are purely self-consistency tests, while the third is a direct comparison of two hypotheses. Predictions made without a statement of probability are very difficult to test, and any test must be based on the ratio of earthquakes in and out of the forecast regions.

Jackson, D. D. (1996). Hypothesis Testing and Earthquake Prediction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 93(9), 3772-3775.