Saturday, March 19, 2011

Prediction of Earthquake possible now

Underground quartz deposits worldwide may be behind earthquakes, mountain building and other continental tectonics, a discovery that may aid in predicting tremblers, according to a study released.

The findings by Utah State University geophysicist Anthony Lowry and a colleague at the University of London, published on Thursday in the journal Nature, may solve a riddle of the ages about the formation and location of earthquake faults, mountains, valleys and plains. "Certainly the question of why mountains occur where they do has been around since the dawn of time," Lowry said.

He and research partner Marta Perez-Gussinye examined temperature and gravity across the western United States from a movable network of seismic instruments to describe the geological properties of the earth's crust. The scientists discovered that quartz crystal deposits are found wherever mountains or fault lines occur in states like California, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.

The geo scientist said the breakthrough came after repeated testing revealed a correlation between quartz deposits and geologic events that was "completely eye-popping".

Using newly developed remote sensing technology known as Earth scope, Lowry and Perez-Gussinye found that quartz indicates a weakness in the earth's crust likely to spawn a geologic event such as an earthquake or a volcano. Quartz also may account for the movements of continents known as continent drift or plate tectonics.

For example, the massive earthquake last week in Japan pushed the island nation 8ft closer to the continent United States as the Asiatic tectonic plate slid under the North American plate.

The team linked rock properties to movements of the earth, explaining how quartz contains trapped  water that is released when heated under stress, allowing rocks to slide and flow in what Lowry termed a "viscous cycle". The theory could aid scientists in assessing the likelihood and strength of earthquakes areas deemed geologically inactive. The research also may provide clues to everything from safe siting of nuclear power plants to the structural demands of large dams.

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