Today’s Solutions: December 03, 2021

If you live in an earthquake prone area, you know one of the scariest aspects is not knowing when “the big one” will hit. Scientists in Australia may be able to help with that. Researchers in Uluru think they may be able to predict earthquake location and size based on surrounding geologic features. 

Looking at the 2016 magnitude 6.0 Petermann, researchers found zones of 500 million year old weak rocks that surrounded the dimensions and slip of the fault plane. The usually long and smooth rupture of this type of earthquake was disrupted by the presence of weak surrounding rock. 

Using geologic mapping, the researchers think they may be able to identify the location and distribution of potential earthquakes. 

Again, when looking at The Petermann Ranges, which extend 320 km from east central Western Australia to the southwest corner of the Northern Territory, the researchers found weak rock layers embedded in the strong crust that may have caused critical earthquakes during the range’s formation. 

“With this insight about what caused Central Australia’s old, strong, and cold cratonic crust to break and produce this significant earthquake, seismic and geologic data might help us infer possible geometries of fault planes present beneath our urban centers and forecast seismic hazard,” said Januka Attanayake, a University of Melbourne research fellow.

Seismic threats affect prominent urban areas in Australia and beyond including Japan, Chile, and the west coast of the United States where earthquakes have caused serious damage and even death. Any insights into potentially mapping out these devastating events could be instrumental in saving lives and property and preparing cities for imminent disaster.

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