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Rare 'Boomerang Earthquake' Found in Ocean

Rare 'Boomerang Earthquake' Found in Ocean

Boomerang earthquake

Scientists have recorded the first evidence of a so-called "boomerang earthquake" deep in the Atlantic ocean, BGR reported. Such earthquakes begin along fault lines where plates meet, move in one direction along the fault line, and then suddenly reverse direction. This almost never happens, but when it does, the return trip to the fracture occurs with incredible speed. Researchers recently recorded an earthquake. The researchers hope these observations will help them better prepare early warning systems and models for predicting earthquake damage. As researchers report in a new study published in Nature Geoscience, the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlantic Ocean in 2016 appears to be one of these rare types. The quake, which was detected using underwater seismic sensors, appears to have moved in one direction, then switched back with incredible speed and fractured more in the opposite direction. Researchers believe the phenomenon is fairly rare, but because of that, it hasn't been widely studied. The fact that this could happen is not factored into models that predict earthquakes, and certainly not into early warning systems and other information networks designed to keep people safe.

Researchers report

"While scientists have found in theoretical models that such a reversal rupture mechanism is possible, our new study provides some of the clearest evidence yet that this mysterious mechanism occurs in real faults," lead author Dr. Stephen Hicks said in a statement. "Even though the fault structure looks simple, earthquakes don't behave in a simple way, which is completely contrary to what we expected before we started analyzing the data." Researchers believe the phenomenon is fairly rare, but because of that, it hasn't been widely studied. The fact that this could happen is not factored into models that predict earthquakes, and certainly not into early warning systems and other information networks designed to keep people safe.

Back propagation of fracture

The "back propagation" of faults is thought to be related to deep faults that reach weak areas of the fault and then retrace their steps in the opposite direction. "Our study suggests that deep fractures to weak fault segments contribute to greater seismic slippage in shallow-locked areas," the researchers wrote. "This highlights that earthquakes can be highly dynamic even along a single, unique fault zone. Observed backpropagation fractures are rare, and the possibility of backpropagation is largely absent in fracture simulations and is not taken into account in risk assessments."

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