Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Chile quake occurred in zone of “increased stress”

02.03.2010
The massive, 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile Feb. 27 occurred in an offshore zone that was under increased stress caused by a 1960 quake of magnitude 9.5, according to geologist Jian Lin of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

The earthquake, some 300-500 times more powerful than the magnitude 7.0 quake in Haiti Jan. 12, ruptured at the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates.

The temblor was triggered when the “subducting” Nazca plate was thrust under the South American plate, uplifting a large patch of the seafloor and prompting tsunami warnings throughout the Pacific Ocean. The two plates are converging at a rate of 80 mm per year, says Lin, “which is one of the fastest rates on Earth.”

Lin and colleague Ross S. Stein of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Ca., have studied the region extensively, and alerted the scientific community to a build up of stress along the interface of the two plates in a 2004 paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

“In 2004, we calculated that the 1960 magnitude 9.5 earthquake has caused large stress increase on both the northern and southern ends of its rupture,” said Lin. That quake, centered a few hundred kilometers south of Saturday’s earthquake, was the largest instrumentally recorded earthquake in the world. It killed 1,655 people in southern Chile and unleashed a tsunami that crossed the Pacific, killing 61 people in Hawaii and 185 in Japan. Saturday’s “quake picked up where the 1960 rupture ended in the north,” Lin said.

“This story is quite similar to the Dec. 26, 2004 magnitude-9.0 Sumatra earthquake, which was followed by a magnitude 8.7 quake on its southern end on 28 March 2005,” he said. “The only difference is that it took 50 years for the northern neighboring section of the 1960 [Chile] earthquake to rupture, while it took only 3 months for the southern adjacent segment to rupture in Sumatra.

“We do not yet have good enough science to say why one place took only 3 months and another took 50 years. But even 50 years is short enough [to fall within] in a person's lifetime. Thus, we should consider the earthquake interaction possibilities seriously.”

In Haiti, Lin pointed out that he and others have calculated that the Jan. 12 rupture has heightened stress further east along the Enriquillo Fault, thereby increasing chances of a quake in that region, which “comes within five kilometers of Port-au-Prince,” he said.

The latest Chile quake, which had killed more than 700 people as of March 1, was centered some 65 miles west-southwest of Talca, Chile, about 21.7 miles below the ocean’s surface, “relatively shallow for a subduction quake,” said Lin. It struck about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, the country’s capitol. Saturday’s earthquake had a “much longer” rupture zone—500-600 km—than that of the Haiti quake—35-50 km, Lin said.

“So why was the Haiti quake so much more catastrophic than the Chile quake?” he asked.

“First, as a nation, Chile is much better prepared for earthquakes than Haiti. People in Chile today still remember the pain of the 1960 quake,” Lin said. In addition, coastal Chile has a history of other very large earthquakes. Since 1973, there have been 13 events of magnitude 7.0 or greater. Approximately 870 km to the north of the Feb. 27 earthquake is the source region of the magnitude 8.5 earthquake of November 1922. That great quake significantly killed several hundred people and caused severe property damage. The 1922 quake generated a 9-meter local tsunami that inundated the Chile coast near the town of Coquimbo; the tsunami also crossed the Pacific, washing away boats in Hilo harbor, Hawaii.

“In contrast, the last catastrophic earthquake in Haiti was 240 years ago,” Lin said, “and thus few people were aware of a string of ‘earthquake bombs’ lying next to Port-au-Prince until Jan. 12.

“Second,” he said, “the economy of Chile is much better than that of Haiti. Thus, building codes are better developed and enforced in Chile. The contrasts between the aftermaths of the Chile and Haiti quakes reminded us, once again, that ‘earthquakes do not kill people, buildings do.’”

The Chile temblor dispatched tsunami waves onshore to Chile and across the Pacific Ocean toward Hawaii and the west coast of the US mainland, primarily California, and experts warned that tsunami waves were likely to hit Asian, Australian and New Zealand shores within 24 hours of the earthquake. Waves 6 feet (1.8 meters) above normal hit Talcahuano near Concepcion 23 minutes after the quake, and President Michelle Bachelet said a huge wave swept into a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast. There were no immediate reports of major damage from the waves.

Though the predicted tsunami waves did reach Hawaii, California, New Zealand and other Pacific Rim regions, they proved to be relatively small and had minimal impact. “Even though the waves turned out to be not devastating”, Lin said, “it was an important opportunity for communities in coastal regions to improve the preparedness for potential greater tsunamis in the future.”

The WHOI research vessel Atlantis was operating off the coast of northern Chile when the magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck on Saturday. WHOI confirmed that R/V Atlantis and all on board are safe. There were no ill effects to R/V Atlantis or those on board from the quake or the subsequent tsunami.

R/V Atlantis has a scheduled port stop beginning on March 3, 2010, in Arica, Chile, which is on the northern coast of Chile. The WHOI Marine Operations Department is assessing the situation with their port agents to determine how or if that port stop will be affected.

A number of WHOI staff are onboard the R/V Melville, operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which is conducting research at the Chile Triple Junction. WHOI received an email from an employee aboard the ship, and was told that all onboard are fine. The blog associated with this expedition (http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/10chile/) had not been updated on Saturday because, WHOI was told, the ship’s communication capability was being used to communicate by those onboard with family on shore.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans' role in the changing global environment.

Media Relations | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.whoi.edu
http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/10chile/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Research sheds new light on forces that threaten sensitive coastlines
24.04.2017 | Indiana University

nachricht NASA sees the end of ex-Tropical Cyclone 02W
21.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>