The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics has been organizing workshops on non-linear dynamics and earthquake prediction since 1991. The methods of non-linear dynamics are applied to understanding the instability of the Earth lithosphere. Earthquake prediction is an intrinsic part of the problem, pivotal for understanding dynamics of lithosphere as well as for reduction of disasters. Earthquakes and some other dangers are governed by non-linear systems, which are hierarchical and have an intermediate number of degrees of freedom: an earthquake-prone or a creep-prone region, harbouring high risk objects; a mega city, on a way to self-destruction. The prediction of these disasters, which is a critical component of their reduction, is a very difficult problem due to the absence of an adequate theoretical base of prediction research, in particular, to the impossibility of understanding a non-linear system by studying it piece by piece. Integration of modelling and phenomenology of earthquake occurrence should help overcome the difficulties, connected with the absence of fundamental constitutive equations and the impossibility of direct measurements at the depth, where the earthquakes originate. Specifically, the efforts are focused on the interface between analysis of geophysical observations and mathematical models of chaotic systems. Among practical aspects, large attention is given to accuracy and statistical significance of prediction methods, their rate of errors, and to interaction with disaster management authorities.
The following developments in science and technology form the basis for modelling the lithosphere dynamics and, therefore, for understanding and prediction of earthquakes:
- non-linear dynamics with its concept of chaos, self -organization, and phase transitions, as a highly useful tool for the study of short-term dynamics of lithosphere, including seismicity;
- a variety of models recently developed, including the lattice-type ("universal") models, as well as models reflecting fault-geometry and observations on seismicity and other relevant fields.