Two Major Geothermal Projects Abandoned Due to Induced Quake Risk

Two high-profile geothermal projects in the U.S. and Europe were both permanently halted late last week, after federal officials in both countries questioned their safety and propensity to cause earthquakes. Projects in Basel, Switzerland, and in northern California were both abandoned, raising questions about the danger of purposefully cracking open the Earth to extract its heat.

[ Read Full Story ]

Earthquake-Proof Skyscrapers Hide From Seismic Waves

The earliest known attempt at earthquake-proofing dates to the sixth century B.C., when builders in modern-day Iran inserted stone blocks between a structure and its foundation to reduce vibrations. Today’s engineers buffer buildings with metal springs, ball bearings and rubber pads, all designed to sop up the energy from seismic waves. This summer, a team of physicists at the University of Liverpool in England and the French National Centre for Scientific Research tested a different strategy: redirect the waves altogether.

[ Read Full Story ]

New Earthquake-Resistant Design Pulls Buildings Upright After Violent Quakes

How exactly does one build an earthquake-proof building? If you answered "make sure the structure rocks completely off its foundation," you're actually in good company. A research team led by Stanford and the University of Illinois successfully tested a structural system that holds a building together through a magnitude-seven earthquake, and even pulls it back upright on its foundation when the quaking stops. The key: embracing the shaking, by limiting the damage to a few flexible, replaceable areas within the building's frame.

[ Read Full Story ]

Active Cloaking Could Counter Radar, Earthquakes, and Tsunamis

Electromagnetic fields can cloak objects from passing waves

Today's stealth fighters, such as the F-22 Raptor, may do pretty well in concealing their radar signature, but mathematicians say that a new active cloaking technique could someday generate electromagnetic fields to hide submarines from sonar, or even protect buildings from earthquakes.

[ Read Full Story ]

Seismic Invisibility Cloak Could Hide Buildings From Earthquakes

Engineering a precise series of ring-shaped shields to deflect earthquakes around a building

Disaster film director Roland Emmerich must be quaking in his boots knowing that his movies may soon have to be a little less destructive. With the invention of an "invisibility cloak" for buildings, earthquake damage could be significantly minimized. Using a series of concentric rings in the foundation of a building, this "cloak" directs seismic waves around a building, rather than destructively against and through it.

[ Read Full Story ]

Jet-Mounted Radar Looks for Earthquake Zones

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's UAVSAR project scans California's faults from 45,000 feet up

Southern Californians may be living on borrowed time. At least two sections of the notorious San Andreas Fault, a hotbed of tectonic tension, are apparently overdue for a huge earthquake that could devastate Los Angeles County or San Francisco. Though they can neither prevent nor pinpoint it, scientists would like to get as much information as they can as to where and when the next "Big One" could happen. Increasingly, they're turning to air and space to learn what's happening 10 miles underground.

A new radar plane developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the first American system designed to map earthquake hot zones.

[ Read Full Story ]

A 7.1 Earthquake Rattles the Central American Morning; Could've Been A Lot Worse!

Strike-slip, you're out

This morning, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Belize and Honduras, resulting a few fatalities and some property damage.

Paul Earl, a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey, told that the quake emanated from the Swan Island Transform fault, a strike-slip fault not unlike the San Andreas fault in California. Both the location -- 80 miles off shore -- and the type of fault helped minimize the destruction caused by the event.

[ Read Full Story ]

Send in the Rescue Robots

Testing emergency-response robots in Disaster City, Texas

Earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones -- disasters like these make the natural environment both unnavigable and dangerous for human search-and-rescue teams. That's when it's time for robots to come to our rescue.

Earthquakes are a recurring problem in Japan, an archipelago that rests on four tectonic plates. Japan also happens to be a hotbed of robotics research, so the two have come together in surprising ways.

[ Read Full Story ]

Build a Better Quake Catcher

A chip hidden inside laptop computers does double duty as an earthquake detector

In earthquake-prone California, where geologists say that the “Big One” is virtually certain to strike before 2040, a few seconds of warning could save lives. Allowing more time to duck and cover is one of the major goals of the new Quake-Catcher Network (QCN), an affordable, citizen-based earthquake-detection system that turns idle laptop computers into seismic sensors.

[ Read Full Story ]

Nature's Earthquake Forecaster

By measuring changes in rocks, seismologists may have found a way of predicting quakes hours in advance

For seismologists, the dream of a perfect earthquake forecasting system may be a step closer. In a letter published last week in the journal Nature, scientists announced they've discovered a way to read changes in rocks that could be used to predict dangerous quakes as much as ten and a half hours in advance.

[ Read Full Story ]

Earthquakes Continue to Roll Through Reno

Two months worth of shaking hit a peak Friday night in Nevada

Some residents of Reno, Nevada, are leaving their homes after two months of scattered earthquakes. An earthquake that registered 4.7 on the Richter Scale hit Friday night - the strongest in a string of shakes that started way back at the end of February. But that wasn't all: More than 150 aftershocks rumbled through the region over the weekend.

[ Read Full Story ]

Engineered Earthquakes

Could we avoid the big one by setting off smaller quakes?

An earthquake is a sudden release of stress that has built up along a fault line, where rock faces push against each other. If that stress could be released over a longer period of time—with a series of smaller quakes—the result might be less catastrophic.

Engineers have known for 40 years that injecting fluids deep into wells can accidentally trigger mini—quakes by lubricating “sticky” rock faces. Since that time, there have been numerous proposals to pump fluids into stressed fault lines.

[ Read Full Story ]


The only thing we can predict is where a “big one” could do the most damage

We know this much: Earthquakes strike along faults—fractures in the planet’s crust where plates of rock are thrust into a sort of geological gridlock. The difference between a tremor and an earth-shattering 8.0-plus-magnitude quake depends on whether the plates slip when the tension between them is still relatively low or if they snap after enduring millennia of mounting strain.

Calculating exactly when this might happen, however, is no easy feat.

[ Read Full Story ]

When Earth Attacks

Tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes, landslides—The single certain thing about nature´s killers is that they will strike again, and again. Our only defense: ever better prediction and protection

Humans are fleeting visitors on this roiling rock in the universe. On December 26, 2020, at 58 minutes and 49 seconds past midnight GMT, Mother Earth reacquainted us with this immutable fact. For millions of years, a creeping slab of Earth´s crust—the India Plate—had been grinding headlong into a similarly stubborn chunk of rock called the Burma Plate. Like a clash of Brobdingnagian armies, millennia of pent-up kinetic energy suddenly exploded from the seabed, a scant 100 miles from Sumatra, Indonesia.

[ Read Full Story ]