Mon Feb 18, 2019 | 19:21
'Quartz might explain earthquakes'
Thu, 17 Mar 2011 17:25:30 GMT
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Quartz crystals
Underground quartz deposits might be responsible for earthquakes, mountain building and other continental tectonics, a recent study suggests.

The joint study conducted by geophysicist Anthony Lowry of Utah State University and Marta Perez-Gussinye of the University of London has offered new hopes of predicting tremblers.

The findings might also provide an explanation 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 told Reuters.

Lowry and his colleague used a movable network of seismic instruments to examine temperature and gravity across the Western United States and describe the geological properties of the earth's crust.

Their studies revealed that quartz crystal deposits were present wherever mountains or fault lines occur in states like California, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.

Further tests revealed a correlation between quartz deposits and "eye-popping" geologic events.

Earthscope, a newly developed remote sensing technology, also helped Lowry and Perez-Gussinye to find that quartz was an indication of weak crust and a reason for continent movements known as continental drift or plate tectonics.

The recent earthquake in Japan, for instance, moved the island nation eight feet closer to the continental United States as the Asiatic tectonic plate slid under the North American plate.

The team says rock properties affect movements of the earth as quartz contains trapped water that is released when heated under stress.
The released water causes rocks to slide and flow in what Lowry calls a "viscous cycle."

Some locations like Japan, Southern California and Yellowstone National Park are known to be in the active phase of the “viscous cycle,” while regions such as the Appalachians in the Eastern United States are likely in an inactive phase.

The new findings can help solve the mystery of massive earthquakes which go dormant for a long period of time.

A good example is the quake in New Madrid Fault near St. Louis, which reversed the flow of the Mississippi River in 1812 but has since been inactive.

Scientists will also be able to use the findings in safe siting nuclear power plants.

"We're groping around the elephant at the moment," Lowry said. "We're basically seeing a different piece of information and this piece is going to be really key to understanding what's going on."

The study will also help scientists in safe siting nuclear power plants and determining the structural demands of large dams.

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