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Digging For Earthquakes

MADISON, WI (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Earthquakes happen around the world every day. There’s a lot known about earthquakes, but scientists still have unanswered questions, especially about quake zones lying underwater that could cause devastating tsunamis.

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Waves topping 100 feet high that left 230 thousand dead. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was the deadliest on record, triggered by a 9.3 magnitude earthquake. Another 230 thousand dead after a 7.0 quake destroys Haiti in 2010. Less than a month later, an 8.8 quake hits Chile.

There’s no stopping earthquakes from happening, but now geophysicists are digging deep to learn more about what triggers them with a project called the Nankai Trough Seismogenic zone experiment, or nan-tro-seize.

“So the nantroseize project is basically a very large, in fact, the largest scale scientific drilling operation that’s ever been undertaken, and the goal is to drill into an earthquake fault.” Geophysicist Harold Tobin, PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison told Ivanhoe.

Scientists are drilling into a fault zone below the seafloor off the coast of Japan. An area with a history of producing powerful quakes and destructive tsunamis.

“We’re trying to for the very first time drill a hole into that zone, and collect core samples from the earthquake fault itself to know what the fault materials are like” Dr. Tobin explained.

Sensors placed deep beneath the sea floor record earthquakes up close, while the core samples reveal a mixture of water, soil, and rock inside the fault, giving researchers a better understanding of what is happening when an earthquake starts.

“We know that there’s this 1400 year long history of earthquakes there, and tsunamis, and we’re most of the way through the cycle towards a predicted next earthquake in that area.” Dr. Tobin said.

We know the next big one will hit. Scientists want to know when. They have learned so far, that layers of shifted rock show evidence of extended earthquake activity in a region that is likely responsible for generating tsunamis.

The American Geophysical Union and the American Physical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Harold J. Tobin
Geologist, University of Wisconsin-Madison
(608) 265-5796

Peter Weiss
American Geophysical Union
Washington, DC 20009-1277
(202) 777-7507

James Riordon, Media Relations
American Physical Society
College Park, MD
(301) 209-3238

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