Coulomb pre-stress and fault bends are ignored yet vital factors for earthquake triggering and hazard

Journal: Nature Communications

Published: 2019-06-21

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10520-6

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 4

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Research Highlight

Stressing history in earthquake prediction

© Zodebala/Getty

© Zodebala/Getty

Locating where the stress builds up from past earthquakes could help reveal where the next one might strike.

It is often assumed that big earthquakes will be followed by a rupture on the nearest neighbouring fault, because stress has simply been transferred within the Earth’s crust.

A team that included a researcher from the Graduate School of Medicine at Tohoku University studied historical accounts of large earthquakes throughout central Italy over the past 700 years to find when and where they struck.

The researchers used seismic data to model where, and by how much, stress on rocks rose and fell as a result of each earthquake. They found that quakes almost never occurred on the nearest fault to the last big one, but nearly always on faults that had accumulated the most stress from previous tremors.

Identifying which fault lines are the most likely to experience the next earthquake would help prepare people living in the danger zone and could reduce potential damage.


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  1. Nature Communications 10, 2744 (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10520-6
Institutions Share
UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), United Kingdom (UK) 0.38
Birkbeck Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, United Kingdom (UK) 0.25
International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS), Tohoku University, Japan 0.25
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom (UK) 0.13

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