An interdisciplinary team recently discovered that “slow earthquakes,” which release energy over a period of hours to months, could potentially lead to nearby “regular earthquakes.” The finding could help seismologists better forecast some strong earthquakes set to occur within a certain window of time, enabling warnings and other preparations that may save lives.
Kevin Chao, a Data Science Scholar at the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO) and at the Center for Optimization and Statistical Learning, and his colleagues turned to a region within Taiwan home to approximately 100 seismic stations that have continuously recorded ground motion for years. It was there the team noticed the presence of deep tremors, a type of slow earthquake that typically recurs in days- or weeks-long cycles. “Deep tremors are very sensitive to small stress changes,” Chao said. “So, we decided to use them as stress meters to monitor local variations in stress build-up and release before and after large earthquakes.”
The research was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.