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A team of scientists from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the University of Rochester, New York University, University of North Carolina, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has concluded that the largest landslide ever recorded in the contiguous United States was triggered by a single wave of earthquakes in a single location.
“This is clearly the largest earthquake swarm the United States has ever experienced in terms of its size and energy,” remarked Dr. John Vidale, lead author of the research published in the April 1 issue of Science Advances.
“We have used the first-ever earthquake swarm data to reconstruct a wave sequence of nearly 7,000 earthquakes in the San Andreas fault zone. We have also calculated how that sequence can have triggered the megathrust slide. In doing so, we have identified the location of the largest earthquake swarm in the United States, and are now working with scientists in China to identify the sources of the largest earthquake swarm ever recorded in that country.”
The research team used the Global Earthquake Catalog to trace down the earthquake swarm. The Catalog is a collection of thousands of seismic events reported by institutions around the world, most of which do not appear to be earthquakes, which is why the Catalog is called the Geophysics Reference Manual. The Catalog currently serves as a repository for geophysical data generated in earthquakes throughout history. Scientists with the UCSD Earthquake Laboratory and the USGS have collaborated with international institutions, to develop an interactive Web site that includes a searchable database of the catalog and associated seismicity. It is expected that this information will help scientists around the world identify the locations of large earthquakes that can be linked to events during the last hundred years.
“There are hundreds of thousands of earthquakes in the Earth’s crust over the last billion and a half years,” said Dr. Vidale. “The sheer size and energy of this swarm of earthquakes has not been observed before. This is truly an exceptional study that will have significant implications for seismology and the natural environment across the globe.”
In addition to Vidale, coauthors of the paper are:
Nancy Smith, professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Rochester;
Jiajun Yang, professor in the Department of Earth Sciences and of Geophysics/Seismology at UC UCSD;
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