New research partly funded by the Indian government to forecast earthquakes has made a grim prediction: a great quake never seen in centuries could strike Uttarakhand, an area home to 10 million people. A 700-year-old ‘fault’ beneath the state has reached a tipping point, an Indo-Australian team of experts has concluded after gruelling lab and on-site investigations, including the scouring of three river-beds – those of the Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Kali.

Notice of an impending earthquake may be scary, but it isn’t such a bad idea. Even seconds of advanced quake warning can reduce loss of lives, according to the US Geological Survey. Quakes can’t really be predicted. But by using complex modern science, geologists can marry data sets from past quakes with slow changes in landscape patterns to tell where a tremor is due. MORE