Earthquakes, magnetic storms: Shaking up a storm... or vice-versa

April 9, 2002

Brussels, 08 April 2002

No-one can tell with any great accuracy exactly when and where the next earthquake will strike this planet, but Russian scientists believe magnetic storms are a good place to start looking.

The earth's surface seems rock solid, but it is in fact a dynamic grid of slowly shifting 'tectonic' plates. Although incredibly slow, this motion causes stress to build up in the crust which, beyond a critical threshold, causes a portion of the crust to give way, shifting suddenly and violently - what we feel as earthquakes. Research into this potentially devastating natural phenomenon has focused on a number of geophysical areas such as the earth's rotation, solar activity and now magnetic hydrodynamic causes.

Scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences have investigated the connection between magnetic storms and earthquakes in the seismically active Central Asian region, which also takes in northern Afghanistan - the site of recent quakes measuring over 6 on the Richter scale, causing untold damage and thousands of deaths.

The trigger effect

Since 1975, researchers have compared some 14 000 earth tremors in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan with around 350 sudden magnetic storms occurring over the same period in the region - concluding with some confidence the propensity for earthquakes increases after a magnetic storm takes place. The relationship is complicated but it is centred on the way magnetic storms, interacting with high-speed plasma streams, cause noticeable vibrations as they hit the earth's magnetosphere. The electromagnetic energy in the storm is converted into mechanical energy through a series of conversions in the rocks, such as the 'piezoelectric effect', which are believed to trigger earthquakes. The researchers hope to better understand the physical nature of this 'trigger effect' in the course of future fieldwork and laboratory experiments.

More information
Shmidt United Institute for Physics of the Earth
Russian Academy of Sciences
Contact: sobolev@uipe-ras.scgis.ru

Source: Research DG http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/research/ index_en.html

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Senior Lecturer in Human Genetics LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY
Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY
Lecturer in Biochemistry LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY
Professor in Marketing UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW

Most Commented

Artist Frank Boelter sitting in life-size paper boat

Creator of crowdfunding teaching tool says entrepreneurship courses should drop the traditional business plan as a method of assessment

Elly Walton illustration (25 August 2016)

Treating students as consumers has precipitated a rush to the bottom to give them exactly what they want, says John Warren

Superhero costumes hanging on a washing line

Senior management do not recognise support staff’s pivotal role in achieving positive student outcomes, administrators say

Man photocopying a book

Students think it ‘unfair’ to be punished for unintentional plagiarism

Child drives miniature car into people

Smaller, newer alternative providers are less likely to pass higher education review, analysis says