River Erosion Causes Increasingly More Earthquakes To Occur In The “Wrong” Places


Lately, more and more earthquakes happen in the “wrong” places, hitting regions of the Earth where seisms should not take place. According to new research, however, the scientists might have an explanation for this mysterious situation. Namely, river erosion is the culprit for the increasing number of earthquakes that occur in the “wrong” places, far from the edges of tectonic plates which usually cause seisms.

When we think about earthquakes, we always believe that tectonic plates are causing them due to the friction and pressure that builds up as they move up against each other. However, according to the new study carried out by scientists from the University of Kentucky and Colorado State University, published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, more and more earthquakes are caused by river erosion.

“We’re taught in introductory geology that the vast majority of earthquakes occur at plate tectonic boundaries, such as in Japan and along the San Andreas fault zone,” said Ryan Thigpen from the University of Kentucky.

River Erosion Is Behind The Increasing Number Of Earthquakes That Occur In The “Wrong” Places

“While [the tectonic plates theory] is true, it doesn’t explain those earthquakes that frequently occur in areas such as the East Tennessee and New Madrid seismic zones,” added Ryan Thigpen.

Sean Gallen, a researcher from the Colorado State University, and Ryan Thigpen employed computer simulations to reproduce the removal of 150 meters of rock via river erosion. The results matched the seismic activity the researchers have recorded in East Tennessee over the last century. In case long-term river erosion would indeed be added to the accepted earthquakes models, the scientists might be able to prevent seisms with greater accuracy so that they could save more lives and properties.

“Previously, geologists have speculated about some of the driving mechanisms behind the seismicity, but new and sometimes radical ideas are now allowing us to consider this from an entirely new perspective,” concluded Ryan Thigpen.


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