Forces behind earthquakes revealed: Research


It is very difficult to comprehend as to why certain areas are considered to be more earthquake-prone than the others. A team of professionals from the Stony Brook University has developed a numerical model that correlates the occurrence of earthquakes and the strong forces causing them.

The findings showed that stresses on the Earth’s tectonic plates are the principal driving forces of earthquakes. These stresses could result in earthquakes not only at the boundary regions but even in the internal portions of the plates.

“If you take into account the effects of topography and all density variations within the plates – the earth’s crust varies in thickness depending on where you are – if you take all that into account, together with the mantle convection system, you can do a good job explaining what is going on at the surface,” commented William E. Holt, Ph.D., a professor in the Geosciences Department at Stony Brook University.

According to the investigators, a system of plates floats on the Earth’s watery mantle that serves as a convection mechanism. Considering that the continents rest on them, when these plates collide with each other or sink, the plate boundary zones are also shifted in the process. This is apparently one of the reasons why collisions between continents often lead to drastic and powerful earthquakes.

Predicting the motion of plates accurately has been a hard nut to crack for scientists working on global dynamic models. In this analysis, the scientists accessed Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements to gauge the mobility of the planet’s core inside the moving plate boundary zones. A set of global seismometers incorporated in the model may provide an image of the Earth’s density variations in the interior.

The model could also measure the direction of the Earth’s stress field, which are developed from earthquake faults. As per the revelations, large-scale mantle flow patterns seemed to primarily influence the stresses and motion of the plates.

According to the analysts, the global computer model cannot accurately indicate the timing and region where earthquakes will occur in the short term. Nevertheless, the model could provide more insights on earthquake forecasting over long time frames.

The research is published in the journal, Science.

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