Taxonomy term

seismology

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

Firefighting gets a leg up from earthquake sensor networks

Seismic networks monitor ground motion in earthquake-prone regions like California and Nevada. Now, they may also help combat other natural hazards like wildfires, which are especially common in drought-stricken western states where parched landscapes create ideal conditions for fires to spread.

19 Aug 2016

Going with the flow: Mapping the mantle under the Cascadia Subduction Zone

The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ), off the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States and Canada, is one of the world’s most mysterious — and potentially dangerous — earthquake zones. Eerily quiet since a massive magnitude-9 event in 1700, scientists have long warned that the 1,000-kilometer-long fault zone could produce another devastating earthquake and tsunami. Now, a new effort to map the fault zone’s tectonic environment, including the underlying mantle, is shedding light on some of the dynamic forces that may influence earthquakes in the region.

25 Mar 2016

How deep do the Alps go?

Continental crust was long thought to be too buoyant to subduct into the mantle, unlike denser oceanic crust, which descends into the mantle in many locations around the world. But the discovery of coesite — a type of silica formed at the extreme pressures present in subduction zones — in the Alps in 1984 challenged that long-held idea. Seismic evidence backing up claims that continental crust has indeed been subducted beneath the Alps has been scant, however, until now.
26 Jan 2016

Vital seconds: The journey toward earthquake early warning for all

People living along the U.S. West Coast are keenly aware that they live near faults that could quake at any moment. The good news is that earthquake early warning — providing warnings seconds to minutes before damaging seismic waves hit — is progressing from being just a good idea to reality. 
17 Sep 2015

Seismometers listen for falling rocks

Scores of natural rockfalls occur in California’s Yosemi­­te Valley every year, often with little or no advance warning, posing hazards to people and infrastructure. In 1980, for example, a fall near Yosemite Falls killed three people and injured 19. Efforts to record and document rockfalls are rudimentary, relying only on eyewitness accounts and after-the-fact observations of fresh talus piles, which means many events are likely going unreported. In a new study, however, researchers interested in whether there’s a better way to monitor these events propose that seismic and infrasound sensors can help keep tabs on the granite slabs dropping from Yosemite’s cliffs.
 
25 Aug 2015

Stalled slabs sometimes stopped by mineral strengthening

Subduction of tectonic plates into the mantle functions as an eons-long recycling system for Earth’s crust and lithosphere. But in some subduction zones, the downgoing slabs seem to get stuck at depths of about 1,000 kilometers, held up by some unseen barrier on their journey deeper into the lower mantle. Now, scientists propose that this barrier might be related to high-pressure-induced strengthening of minerals in the rocks surrounding subducting slabs at these depths.
09 Aug 2015

Introducing Earth's inner inner core

A humongous hunk of iron — that’s how scientists have long thought of Earth’s solid inner core. But new research suggests there’s more to it than that: namely, that the inner part of the inner core may have different physical properties than the outer part. In addition to revealing a new feature in Earth’s layer-cake internal structure, the discovery may shed light on the planet’s formation, say the authors of the study, published in Nature Geoscience.
 
06 Jul 2015

March 29, 1936: Notes on Earth's Inner Core

On March 29, 1936, Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann wrote a letter to a colleague in which she argued that seismic waves — specifically P-waves — recorded from distant earthquakes showed some anomalous characteristics. “If you had seen so many records from these distances as I have,” she wrote, “I am sure you would not doubt that the amplitudes are abnormally small.” Within the year, Lehmann published a study based on those unusual amplitudes, work that first proposed that Earth has a solid inner core inside its liquid outer core.

29 Mar 2015

Hazard lingers after South Napa earthquake

The magnitude-6 earthquake that shook buildings and rattled wineries in California’s Napa Valley on Aug. 24, 2014, continues to affect homes in at least one neighborhood in the city of Napa more than three months later. The quake’s epicenter was about 6 kilometers south of the city, but post-quake movement, or afterslip, along the principal fault line to the north of the epicenter is ongoing, according to a fast-track report prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Scientists involved in producing the 51-page report — released to the public on Tuesday — discussed it at a press conference at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

17 Dec 2014

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