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earthquakes

Human-induced earthquakes shake less

Occurrences of earthquakes in the Central and Eastern United States have increased since 2009 — a phenomenon that many scientists attribute to the growing use of hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuel extraction. Most agree that it’s not the fracturing itself, but the reinjection of wastewater into wells for containment beneath the surface that tends to induce seismic activity. Now, new research looking at the effects of induced seismic activity suggests that human-made earthquakes and naturally occurring tectonic earthquakes are felt differently at the surface.

21 Aug 2014

Are slow-slip earthquakes under Tokyo stressing faults?

More than 13 million people live in Tokyo, a city that has been devastated by earthquakes in the past and is likely to be rocked again. Since the massive magnitude-9 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, recurrence intervals for nondamaging slow-slip quakes beneath Japan’s capital have shortened. And that has left seismologists to wonder if this aseismic creep could be signaling a countdown to Tokyo’s next “big one.”

07 Aug 2014

Books: The once and future San Andreas Fault

One of the most famous pictures of the San Andreas Fault — taken by G.K. Gilbert, the pioneering geologist whose late-19th century insights into faults and the earthquake cycle were close to prescient — shows a woman standing next to the ruptured fault immediately after the 1906 earthquake.

27 Jul 2014

Striped pyrites link earthquakes to gold deposition

Many of the world’s richest gold deposits are found in fault zones, where the precious metal is concentrated in quartz veins that cut through the surrounding rock. For several decades, scientists have suspected that earthquakes help form these deposits by releasing pressure and giving metals in mineral-rich hydrothermal fluids in the fault zone a chance to precipitate. But clear evidence for this so-called “fault-valve” process has been hard to come by. Now, researchers studying the geochemical makeup of tiny pyrite crystals from one well-known gold mine appear to have found some long-sought confirmation.

18 Jul 2014

People's earthquake reports influenced more by locomotion than location

In this era of high-tech seismic networks and GPS, scientists still rely on low-tech earthquake intensity scales, generated from public surveys like the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Did You Feel It? questionnaire, to characterize ground shaking in places with low instrument coverage. But how accurate are people’s perceptions of shaking? 

15 Jul 2014

San Andreas Fault shook Bay Area three times in a century

During the April 18, 1906, magnitude-7.9 earthquake near San Francisco, Calif., 470 kilometers of the San Andreas Fault ruptured between San Juan Bautista, south of San Francisco, and Point Arena, north of the city.

27 Jun 2014

Longmenshan fault zone in the spotlight after two major quakes in five years

In May 2008, a magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck near Wenchuan, China, killing more than 80,000 people in the country’s biggest quake since 1950. Then, in April 2013, the magnitude-6.6 Lushan earthquake hit just 90 kilometers to the south — also within China’s Longmenshan Fault Zone, which separates the Tibetan Plateau to the west from the Sichuan Basin to the east — and caused another 200 deaths. Now, scientists have found that a roughly 60-kilometer segment of the fault zone between the epicenters of the two big temblors could be the next to rupture, although no one knows when or how big it might be.

05 Jun 2014

Humans causing California's mountains to grow

Humankind has proven time and again that it can reshape mountains, or even tear them down. Now, it appears, we can make them rise as well. Geologists studying growth rates of the Sierra Nevada and of central California’s Coast Ranges have identified an anthropogenic contribution to the mountains’ uplift that they suggest is tied to the decades-long depletion of groundwater in the state’s Central Valley. What’s more, the researchers report in a new study published in Nature, the long-term water loss may be affecting how stress builds up on faults like the San Andreas.

14 May 2014

Faking quakes at full scale: Giant shake tables simulate earthquakes to make buildings safer

At a few select facilites around the world, engineers are able to shake full-size buildings to learn how to make them safer during earthquakes. Take a look at the massive shake tables that make it possible.

23 Apr 2014

Massive earthquake strikes Chile

A massive magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile about 95 kilometers north of Iquique on Tuesday night at 6:46 p.m. local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Because the quake occurred underwater along a thrust fault in the subduction zone, a tsunami warning was issued for several cities along the Chilean coast and around the Pacific Basin. A 2.1-meter wave was reported in some Chilean cities. Preliminary reports indicate several deaths and some damage; power is out in many areas and landslides have also been recorded, according to news reports. So far, widespread destruction — which could easily accompany such a large quake — has thankfully not been reported.  The quake followed weeks of increased seismic activity, including dozens of earthquakes up to magnitude-6.7 that have struck since March 16. It is now clear these were foreshocks. 

01 Apr 2014

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