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After 100 years of speculation, scientists have finally found proof that strong tides can trigger earthquakes
The link was confirmed by a trio of researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention in Japan. Using historical earthquake records and satellite-based observations of tides, the researchers found that large earthquakes near certain types of faults along coastlines were three times more likely to occur during high tides than low tides, Wired News. According to National Geographic, the team used the Harvard Centroid-Moment Tensor (CMT) catalog to examine over 2,000 seismic events at shallow thrust faults around the world. The team researched quakes above 5.5 on the Richter magnitude scale that occurred from 1977 through 2000. The faults also occur in areas where larger ocean tides occur more frequently. In study areas along the continental margins of Japan, New Zealand, Alaska, and the west coast of South America, very large tides coincide with thrust subduction-zone, or faults. Thrust faults are cracks in Earth's crust where one continental plate is rising up and over the other. Tides may stress the faults in two major ways. Solid-earth tides are caused by the pull of the moon and sun's gravity on the Earth. The Earth's solid mass has enough elasticity that it behaves similarly to ocean tides but to a much lesser degree. The second stress is caused by what is more commonly thought of as tides - ocean loading. That process includes the movement of staggering volumes of water sloshing around in the ocean basins. The team studied earthquakes that were magnitude 5.5 or greater on these faults over the entire globe from the past 25 years. They found that during times of large tidal fluctuations, these faults were three times more likely to have an earthquake during high tides than during low tides. "When the tides are big, some times of the day are more dangerous than other times of the day," said geophysicist John Vidale of UCLA. These unusually high tides typically pile five or more feet of water onto coastal faults. The research probably won't help geologists predict earthquakes, but it could be a big step in uncovering what causes them, Indianapolis Star
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