Earthquakes are threatening events that occur when the rocks beneath the our planet’s surface break along some lines and slide past each other. Those lines, however, are more significant than some could imagine. Dubbed the geological lines, they have some properties, such as the roughness of their surface. They can have a massive impact on the size of seismic events.
Studying the fault lines was not even a joy for researchers, because how can you examine something that is buried deep beneath the Earth’s surface? Well, that’s a good point, but for a new team of researchers is only a challenge. Researchers from the McGill University have discovered that tectonic plates beneath our planet’s surface can display some degrees of roughness. They can now demonstrate why some earthquakes are steadier than others.
An Earthquake Situation Like Never Before
The team of researchers from the McGill University needed more knowledge and a better understanding. They couldn’t do all the work alone, so they joined their forces with the University of California and the Ruhr University Bochum. Their work involved using high-resolution seismic reflection information to map and estimate the roughness of 350km2 of a plate boundary off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
Historically, the earthquakes that have resurfaced in this region have been moderately large (M7). Researchers believe that the rough patches they discovered might be a reason why. Professor James Kirkpatrick from the McGill University explained: “We already knew that the roughness of a fault was an important factor, but we did not know how rough faults in the subsurface truly are, nor how variable the roughness is for a single fault.”
Prof. Kirkpatrick and his team, researching about the earthquake, hope to apply their procedure to other subduction areas where similar geophysical insights are available to begin to determine whether their results are generally relevant.