Geophysics

geophysics

Sounding Out Earth's Hum

Scientists are working to isolate and identify the various sources and mechanisms, beyond earthquakes, that vibrate the solid earth. The search has led them offshore to investigate how wind and waves and the seafloor interact to produce a symphony of sound that humans can’t hear.

11 Feb 2019

Thirsty mantle: Subduction zones swallow more water than thought

For all the water stored in oceans, ice and other reservoirs at Earth’s surface, there’s likely even more in the planet’s interior, where it plays important roles in many geological processes, including the formation of magma and the lubrication of earthquake-producing fault zones. Uncovering just how much water is inside Earth — and the extent to which it moves back and forth between the surface and subsurface — has long been a challenge for scientists interested in understanding the planet’s water cycle. A new study peering beneath the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific has revealed that some subduction zones might pull significantly more water into Earth’s interior than previously thought.

30 Jan 2019

Earth's "hum" heard at ocean bottom

Lapping waves or crashing surf may come to mind for most people when they imagine the sounds of the ocean. But the ocean has other voices as well, including one produced by interactions of waves with the seafloor along the continental slope. Unlike waves on the shoreline, this steady, low sound, or “hum,” is inaudible to the human ear and has even proven difficult to detect in recordings made by ocean bottom seismometers (OBS). But in a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers analyzing OBS data have now clearly identified the hum for the first time, which may allow it to be used to develop a better picture of Earth’s interior structure.

04 Apr 2018

Small-scale factors influence mantle flow under the seafloor

In December 2011, scientists and technicians aboard the research vessel Marcus G. Langseth dropped several ocean-bottom seismometers into the deep Pacific more than 1,900 kilometers southeast of Hawaii to measure seismic activity and electrical conductivity to a depth of about 300 kilometers below the seafloor. Now, these measurements are providing new insights into how the mantle flows and deforms below the rigid tectonic plates that make up Earth’s surface.

22 Nov 2016

Mauna Loa's mysterious Ninole Hills were once a rift

Hawaii’s Nīnole Hills, jutting out from Mauna Loa’s southeast flank, are one of the most striking features on the Big Island, though their geologic origins have long been a mystery. A new study looking at gravity anomalies under the hills is revealing that the hills are part of an older rift system that predates the currently active Southwest Rift Zone. The seemingly sudden switch from one rift system to another may provide some clues as to how Mauna Loa grew to be the largest volcano on Earth. “A lot of different ideas have been proposed to explain how the Nīnole Hills were created,” says Jeff Zurek, a geophysicist at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, and lead author of the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. It’s been suggested that the hills could be the remnants of an older summit of Mauna Loa, or its predecessor, Mohokea, or that faulting and landslides could have created the unusual topography of the hills, or that they could be from an older, inactive rift system.

11 Aug 2016

Radar reveals unmarked graves

The occasional excursion to Death Valley or mineralogical study of bloodstone notwithstanding, geoscientists don’t often delve into the macabre in the course of their work. But when the administrators of two cemeteries in western New York came calling in 2014, researchers from Buffalo State College ended up using their geophysical field skills to hunt for centuries-old graves.

23 May 2016

Subducting seamounts blocked a big quake in Chile

Chile, which lies above a massive subduction zone fault, is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, experiencing nine temblors of magnitude 7 or greater since 2010. In April 2014, a magnitude-8.1 earthquake struck 95 kilometers northwest of the city of Iquique, but despite its large size, the event failed to release all the stress thought to have built up along that portion of the fault. A new study reveals that a ridge of ancient underwater volcanoes may have blocked the 2014 earthquake rupture from propagating farther, thus limiting the size of the quake.
 

 

20 Jan 2016

Down to Earth With: Marine Geophysicist Maya Tolstoy

Growing up in Scotland, Maya Tolstoy was drawn to the theater, and even briefly considered majoring in the subject in college. Instead, she chose to follow another lifelong passion and became a marine geophysicist.

21 May 2015

Down to Earth With: Brian Tucker

Some of the world’s most densely populated cities are at highest risk for earthquake-related disasters. Geophysicist Brian Tucker has spent the last two-plus decades trying to help the developing world avoid such disasters, and in 1991, he founded the nonprofit GeoHazards International (GHI) to bring the developed world’s risk-mitigation techniques to high-risk communities in the developing world.

27 Apr 2015

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

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