Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Columbia research examines mega earthquake threats

11.08.2003


New use for seismic reflection data: revealing the most dangerous fault lines on Earth



Researchers have found an important new application for seismic reflection data, commonly used to image geological structures and explore for oil and gas. Recently published in the journal Nature, new use of reflection data may prove crucial to understanding the potential for mega earthquakes.

Mladen Nedimovic, the lead author and a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a member of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, examined reflection data collected on the northern Cascadia margin off the coast of Vancouver Island. Cascadia margin is an area where the north Pacific seafloor is being pushed under the continental margin of North America. Locations where oceanic plates are underthrusting the continents are known as subduction zones. Within subduction zones are enormous faults called megathrusts, the places where the two tectonic plates meet and interface one another. Megathrusts are the source of the largest and most devastating earthquakes on Earth.


From the reflection data, Nedimovic and his coauthors mapped the locked zone on the megathrust along the northern Cascadia margin, which hosts the populous cities of Vancouver and Seattle. Locked zones, where geological structures beneath the surface are tightly interfaced, build up enormous pressure as the Earth shifts. In 1700, the pressure beneath the Cascadia margin was released, resulting in a magnitude 9 earthquake that devastated the region. A magnitude 9 earthquake releases over 1000 times more energy than was released during the magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake that shook Seattle two years ago.

Currently, dislocation and thermal modeling are used for mapping locked zones, however, both methods rely on many assumptions about Earth’s structure that may limit their accuracy. In fact, for the northern Cascadia margin, estimates of the locked zone using these techniques indicate that a 36-mile (~60 km) swath of land from the subduction trench toward Vancouver Island is locked. Nedimovic’s reflection analysis shows that it is more likely to be a 56-mile (~90 km) swath, extending the zone some 20 miles (~30 km) closer to land. If this is accurate, rapidly growing inland cities face a greater threat from megathrust earthquake hazards than previously anticipated. The occurrence rate for great earthquakes on the Cascadia megathrust is approximately every 200 to 800 years. We are currently within the timeframe where another large earthquake is expected, with the last earthquake having occurred over 300 years ago.

Seismic and aseismic slip occurs on different parts of a megathrust, at different depths, temperatures, and pressures, and due to different types of rock deformation. Brittle rock failure affects a narrow zone around the thrust where seismic slip is observed, and plastic deformation affects a much wider area above the thrust where the slip is slow and aseismic. Seismic reflection imaging reveals the variations in structures along the megathrust and can be used for detailed mapping of locked and slow-slipping zones.

"Deep seismic reflection images from Alaska, Chile, and Japan show a similar broad reflection band above the megathrust in the region of stable sliding and thin thrust reflections further seaward where the megathrust is locked, suggesting that reflection imaging may be a globally important predictive tool for determining the maximum expected rupture area in great subduction earthquakes," said Nedimovic. " Mega earthquakes have been instrumentally recorded for all three regions making them potential targets for a future investigation to confirm the reflection method and improve characterization of megathrust seismic hazards in the study area."

The northern Cascadia margin study was funded by the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program of the United States Geological Survey and by the Geological Survey of Canada. Mladen Nedimovic and his collaborators are submitting a proposal to National Science Foundation to carry out a megathrust seismic hazards characterization study along the southern Alaska margin.

Jill Stoddard | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu
http://www.earth.columbia.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>