Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


2010 Chilean earthquake causes icequakes in Antarctica


Technology allows scientists to hear seismic waves as they arrived on frozen continent

Seismic events aren't rare occurrences on Antarctica, where sections of the frozen desert can experience hundreds of micro-earthquakes an hour due to ice deformation. Some scientists call them icequakes. But in March of 2010, the ice sheets in Antarctica vibrated a bit more than usual because of something more than 3,000 miles away: the 8.8-magnitude Chilean earthquake.

High-frequency icequakes are shown at station HOWD in Antarctica during the distant waves of the 2010 magnitude 8.8 Chile earthquake. The triggered icequakes are indicated by the narrow vertical bands in the middle and lower sections of the graphic. They begin when the P wave arrives approximately 8 minutes (480 seconds) after the Chilean quake and continue through the arrival of the Rayleigh waves. The sound is generated by speeding up the HOWD's seismic data 100 times.

Credit: Georgia Tech

A new Georgia Institute of Technology study published in Nature Geoscience is the first to indicate that Antarctica's frozen ground is sensitive to seismic waves from distant earthquakes.

To study the quake's impact on Antarctica, the Georgia Tech team looked at seismic data from 42 stations in the six hours before and after the 3:34 a.m. event. The researchers used the same technology that allowed them to "hear" the seismic response at large distances for the devastating 2011 magnitude 9 Japan earthquake as it rumbled through the earth.

In other words, they simply removed the longer-period signals as the seismic waves spread from the distant epicenter to identify high-frequency signals from nearby sources. Nearly 30 percent (12 of the 42 stations) showed clear evidence of high-frequency seismic signals as the surface-wave arrived on Antarctica.

"We interpret these events as small icequakes, most of which were triggered during or immediately after the passing of long-period Rayleigh waves generated from the Chilean mainshock," said Zhigang Peng, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who led the study. "This is somewhat different from the micro-earthquakes and tremor caused by both Love and Rayleigh-type surface waves that traditionally occur in other tectonically active regions thousands of miles from large earthquakes.

Peng says the subtle difference is that micro-earthquakes respond to both shearing and volumetric deformation from distant events. The newly found icequakes respond only to volumetric deformation.

"Such differences may be subtle, but they tell us that the mechanism of these triggered icequakes and small earthquakes are different," Peng added. "One is more like cracking, while the other is like a shear slip event. It's similar to two hands passing each other."

Some of the icequakes were quick bursts and over in less than one second. Others were long duration, tremor-like signals up to 10 seconds. They occurred in various parts of the continent, including seismic stations along the coast and near the South Pole.

The researchers found the clearest indication of induced high-frequency signals at station HOWD near the northwest corner of the Ellsworth Mountains. Short bursts occurred when the P wave hit the station, then continued again when the Rayleigh wave arrived. The triggered icequakes had very similar high waveform patterns, which indicates repeated failure at a single location, possibly by the opening of cracks.

Peng says the source locations of the icequakes are difficult to determine because there isn't an extensive seismic network coverage in Antarctica.

"But at least some of the icequakes themselves create surface waves, so they are probably formed very close to the ice surface," he added. "While we cannot be certain, we suspect they simply reflect fracturing of ice in the near surface due to alternating volumetric compressions and expansions as the Rayleigh waves passed through Antarctica's frozen ice."

Antarctica was originally not on the research team's target list. While examining seismic stations in the Southern Hemisphere, Peng "accidently" found the triggered icequakes at a few openly available stations. He and former Georgia Tech postdoctoral student Jake Walter (now a research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics at UT Austin) then reached out to other seismologists (the paper's four co-authors) who were in charge of deploying more broadband seismometers in Antarctica.


This project is partially supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER grant (EAR-0956051). Any conclusions expressed are those of the principal investigator and may not necessarily represent the official views of the NSF.

Jason Maderer | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Antarctica Chilean earthquake earthquakes micro-earthquakes seismometers signals waves

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Satellites show Joaquin becoming a Category 4 hurricane
02.10.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Surface of the oceans affects climate more than thought
30.09.2015 | Leibniz-Institut für Troposphärenforschung e. V.

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New Sinumerik features improve productivity and precision

EMO 2015, Hall 3, Booth E06/F03

  • Drive optimization called automatically by the part program boosts productivity
  • Automatically switching the dynamic values to rapid traverse and interpolation...

Im Focus: LZH presents additive manufacturing at the LABVOLUTION

The Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will present how laser-based technologies can contribute to the laboratory of the future at the LABVOLUTION in Hannover in Hall 9, Stand E67/09, from October 6th to 8th, 2015. As a part of the model lab smartLAB, the LZH is showing how additive manufacturing, better known as 3-D printing, can make experimental setups more flexible.

Twelve partners from science and industry are presenting an intelligent and innovative model lab at the special display smartLAB. A part of this intelligent...

Im Focus: New polymer creates safer fuels

Before embarking on a transcontinental journey, jet airplanes fill up with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. In the event of a crash, such large quantities of fuel increase the severity of an explosion upon impact.

Researchers at Caltech and JPL have discovered a polymeric fuel additive that can reduce the intensity of postimpact explosions that occur during accidents and...

Im Focus: 3-D printing techniques help surgeons carve new ears

When surgical residents need to practice a complicated procedure to fashion a new ear for children without one, they typically get a bar of soap, carrot or an apple.

To treat children with a missing or under-developed ear, experienced surgeons harvest pieces of rib cartilage from the child and carve them into the framework...

Im Focus: Walk the line

NASA studies physical performance after spaceflight

Walking an obstacle course on Earth is relatively easy. Walking an obstacle course on Earth after being in space for six months is not quite as simple. The...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Infrared thermography can detect joint inflammation and help improving work ergonomics

02.10.2015 | Medical Engineering

Semiconductor nanoparticles show high luminescence in a polymer matrix

02.10.2015 | Materials Sciences

New Sinumerik features improve productivity and precision

02.10.2015 | Trade Fair News

More VideoLinks >>>