Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Earth’s gravity scar

25.04.2005


A new ESA study predicts that the devastating Sumatran earthquake, which resulted in the tragic tsunami of 28 December 2004, will have left a ‘scar’ on Earth’s gravity that could be detected by a sensitive new satellite, due for launch next year.



The Sumatran earthquake measured 9 on the Richter scale and caused widespread devastation and death when it struck unexpectedly late last year. Thankfully, earthquakes of this magnitude are rare events, taking place perhaps once every two decades.

Seismological data suggests that, during the event, the seafloor on either side of a fault line running for 1000 km along the bottom of the Indian Ocean dramatically changed height, producing a ledge, 6 metres high. Such a large-scale movement will change the gravitational field of the Earth. Roberto Sabadini and Giorgio Dalla Via, University of Milan, and colleagues have calculated this change. They found that the Earth’s gravity altered, in an instant, by as much as is expected from six years’ worth of melting at the Patagonian Ice Fields in southernmost South America.


It may seem surprising that Earth’s gravity is not equally strong at all points of the globe. Instead, it varies by a small fraction due to the presence of such things as mountains or deep ocean trenches. The tides and ocean circulation patterns also affect the gravity, as does the rotation of the Earth itself, which bulges out the planet’s equator and makes its diameter 21 kilometres wider than the pole-to-pole distance.

In order to measure the deviations from the average level of gravity, Earth scientists invented the concept of the geoid. This is a bit like a hi-tech version of ‘sea level’, which is often used to give an absolute height measure. Today’s modern measurements need something more accurate, however.

The geoid is a hypothetical surface, on which the gravitational pull of the Earth is the same everywhere. It wraps itself around the Earth, moving away from the real surface when it is over areas of greater density and therefore stronger gravity. Over less dense regions, the geoid moves closer to the real surface.

When material is moved around, either instantaneously in an earthquake or gradually as in a melting ice field, the Earth’s gravity in the local region changes and so does the height of the geoid. In the Sumatran earthquake, Sabadini and Dalla Via found that the total geoid movement was some 18 mm – a lot for a geoid!

ESA’s Gravity Field and Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is designed to sensitively investigate the gravitational field of the Earth from orbit. As the spacecraft passes over regions of stronger and weaker gravitational pull, it will bob up and down. Such deviations are far below the perceptible limits of humans but GOCE is equipped with a device called a gradiometer than can detect these ultra-subtle differences. By measuring the deviations in the geoid, scientists can gain a unique window into our planet.

“This work is at the frontier of geophysics and the perfect complement to seismology,” says Sabadini, “Seismology is good for detecting the slip of earthquake faults and the location of the epicentre, geoid monitoring can determine how much mass is actually being moved around.”

It can also be used in the quest to understand climate change as ocean circulation also affects the geoid. Changes in climate, which in turn affect the ocean circulation pattern, will show up as a yearly change in the geoid. With so much to offer, the GOCE satellite is scheduled to launch in 2006. A paper on the Sumatran Earthquake by Roberto Sabadini, Giorgio Dalla Via, Masja Hoogland, Abdelkrim Aoudia is published in EOS, the journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Clovis de Matos | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/GSP/SEMCO8NQS7E_0.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>