Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

No guessing game: Texas A&M team trying to predict earthquakes

21.12.2004


People in earthquake-prone California often talk about the "Big One," a devastating quake that many experts say will surely strike the region sometime in the future.

A research team is now working to predict when the big one - and even little ones - might occur. Termed SAFOD (San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth), the project involves more than 20 researchers from several major universities, labs and government agencies, including the husband-wife team of Fred and Judi Chester of Texas A&M’s College of Geosciences. SAFOD’s goal is a lofty one - to drill directly into the San Andreas Fault about two miles deep, place various types of instruments in the bored-out area, get rock samples and use the new data to extend and test models that may allow researchers to predict when the next major earthquake might hit.

It’s the first time anyone has ever drilled directly into an active fault zone where scientists think an earthquake will occur in the next couple of years. The multi-year project is part of EarthScope, a long-range program to study the tectonics of North America in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, and is backed with $220 million in funding from the National Science Foundation. The core samples taken will be housed and studied in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) core repository at Texas A&M, which has some of the world’s best expertise and resources in core handling.



The drill site chosen is near the town of Parkfield, Calif., which is between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and boasts 18 full-time residents but proudly calls itself the "earthquake capital of the world." That claim is no boast: Parkfield has registered at least six quakes of magnitude 6 or higher since 1857, and dozens of smaller ones each year for decades because of its unique location where the Pacific and North American Tectonic Plates converge along the San Andreas Fault line.

Parkfield is located between the sites of the largest recorded earthquakes in California, the 7.9 Fort Tejon quake of 1857 near Los Angeles and the 7.8 quake that occurred in 1906 near San Francisco. "The basic problem is this: earthquakes occur at great depths, so we can’t see what’s going on when they do happen," Fred Chester explains. "Our goal is to drill into the active earthquake zone near Parkfield, collect core samples and leave instruments down there that will collect data ’24/7’ over the next few earthquake cycles."
Chester said earthquakes along the San Andreas occur between two and 10 miles below the Earth’s surface. The Parkfield site is ideal, he says, because of its earthquake frequency. "We know that there have been many earthquakes there in the past, and we are certain there will be many more to come in that area," he adds. "This is the first time in the U.S. for a scientific team to drill into a place where earthquakes are generated. We want to monitor this site for 5 to 10 years and see what changes occur in stress levels, temperature and fluids before and after an earthquake.

"Previous models used to predict earthquakes have pretty much failed," he notes. "We’re hoping this project will give us reliable information so that we can understand the physics of an earthquake at its source, and that we can develop strategies to predict the location, timing and size of earthquakes."

Drilling into the San Andreas Fault line began this summer and uses advance directional drilling technology developed for the oil and gas industry. At most, only about 200 feet can be bored out in a day.

Drilling work will end in summer 2005 at a length of about three miles and depth of two miles, Judi Chester said. And then in 2007, more than a half-mile of core will be collected from across the fault zone. "Some of the most important work will be examining the core samples once they reach IODP at Texas A&M, and the first samples will arrive next month," Judi Chester adds. "We’ve studied fault lines at the surface for many years, and now we can study them at the depth of the earthquake source. These core samples should provide extremely valuable information."

The Parkfield area has averaged a magnitude 6 quake or higher about once in every 22 years, Fred Chester says, with the last one occurring just six weeks ago on Sept. 28. It’s part of a very active area: In 1983, a 6.4 quake struck Coalinga, a small town about 25 miles northwest of Parkfield. Also nearby, the San Simeon quake, magnitude 6.5, killed two people in Paso Robles on Dec. 22, 2003. "The scientific community is becoming more and more confident that earthquake prediction will someday be a reality, but we still have much to learn," Chester adds.

"This project will be the most detailed and exhaustive ever. If nothing else, the information we’ll get about earthquakes will be of tremendous benefit not only for Californians, but for people all around the world who live in earthquake areas."

Keith Randall | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA eyes Pineapple Express soaking California
24.02.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht 'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field
23.02.2017 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>