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earthquakes

Giant quake sloshed fjords half a world away

On the morning of March 11, 2011, Leif Hus and his wife Gry Melas Hus were having breakfast in their kitchen overlooking Sognefjord in Leikanger, Norway. It was low tide on a calm and windless day with near-freezing temperatures. As they stood, coffee cups in hand, looking out the window at the fjord, they saw an unusual wave roll in. The wave continued to rise, surging over the seawall into their backyard before receding back into the fjord. Then another wave surged in, and another. As the water rose, engulfing the ladder on their dock, Leif grabbed his cell phone and started filming.

02 Dec 2013

Old photos help scientists relocate 1906 San Francisco quake rupture point

Portola Valley, just south of San Francisco, is famous for its progressive approach to geology. The town was the subject of the first geologic map of California and the first municipality in the state to hire its very own resident geologist. There’s a good reason: The section of the San Andreas Fault that produced the deadly San Francisco quake of 1906 runs right through the town. But where exactly the fault trace lies has long been a mystery. Now, in a new study, researchers have used a combination of new technology and old photographs to relocate the fault line.

25 Nov 2013

A public service announcement: Improve geologic literacy starting on the home front

In lieu of doing a "year in review" issue this year, EARTH asked our staff and some frequent contributors to write a short commentary on something that grabbed their attention in 2013. We gave everyone carte blanche. What follows is a collection of extremely varied, often very personal insights into how the planet impacted each individual. In this essay, EARTH's managing editor Megan Sever discusses how she annoys her friends and family with geologic trivia and why you should do the same.

19 Nov 2013

Slab tear explains perplexing Colombian earthquake activity

Colombia sits atop a restless intersection of tectonic plates: The Caribbean Plate is subducting along the country’s northern coast while the oceanic Nazca Plate subducts along its western edge. In between, the narrow but buoyant Isthmus of Panama continues to crash into South America like a battering ram. The complex pattern of earthquake activity produced by these disparate forces has long confounded scientists hoping to decipher the plate structure beneath Colombia.

08 Nov 2013

World's largest deep earthquake recorded

The seismology world may have a new leader in superlatives: On May 24, 2013, the largest, deep earthquake ever recorded struck beneath the Sea of Okhotsk, between the Kamchatka Peninsula and Russian mainland. Scientists are still puzzling over how such a large event could occur so deep.

30 Oct 2013

Scientists demonstrate strengths and shortcomings of method for determining ancient earthquake size

“A giant Cascadia earthquake, with its accompanying tsunami, has the potential to be the biggest natural disaster in this history of the U.S.,” says Simon Engelhart, a seismologist at the University of Rhode Island. On Jan. 26, 1700, a magnitude-9 earthquake associated with the nearby Cascadia Subduction Zone struck the Pacific Northwest.

12 Sep 2013

Alaskan volcano doesn’t just huff and puff, it screams

In March 2009, Alaska’s Mount Redoubt awoke from two decades of silence with something to say: A series of small earthquakes leading up to the eruption produced a seismic sound that staff at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Volcano Observatory nicknamed “the screams.” Now, two new studies are eavesdropping on Redoubt’s inner workings and quantifying the forces needed to produce the unusual harmonic tremors.

16 Jul 2013

Big quakes topple traditional views of fault behavior

If rules are made to be broken, then perhaps conventional wisdom is made to be overturned. The spate of large earthquakes in recent years — the magnitude and location of which have defied scientific expectations in several cases — has provided ample support for these maxims, at least within earth science. For all the confusion, though, data emerging from these events are reshaping and improving our understanding of how faults operate.

14 Apr 2013

Setting sail on unknown seas: The past, present and future of species rafting

The 2011 Japanese tsunami set adrift tons of debris, some of it carrying live plants and animals that landed in North America more than a year later. It isn’t the first time species have traveled the globe on ersatz rafts, and it won’t be the last. But it is concerning.

24 Feb 2013

Superquakes, supercycles, and global earthquake clustering: Recent research and recent quakes reveal surprises in major fault systems

A number of recent big earthquakes around the world have humbled many earthquake researchers. The March 2011 magnitude-9 superquake off Tohoku, Japan, and the December 2004 magnitude-9-plus temblor off Sumatra were both far larger than what scientists expected those fault systems to produce. Based on these quakes, and on recent research that contradicts long-held paradigms, it is becoming clear that the types and sizes of large earthquakes that a given fault system is capable of producing remain poorly known for most major fault systems.

07 Jan 2013

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