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Wednesday, 17 May 2017 01:00

Scientists in search for hints about Caribbean earthquakes

Aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake Aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Credits: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Led by Jenny Collier of Imperial College London, a team of scientists will be taking measurements from the seafloor of the Caribbean islands, trying to gain some early warning clues about the region's tectonic activity.

Aboarding a research ship – the RRS James Cook, the team will be following the flow of seawater deep into the earth's crust, east of the Caribbean islands, where the oceanic plate dives underground. Using seismic reflections and sensitive recording devices on the seafloor, the scientists will see if they can spot where water comes into the system and how this affects the surrounding geology.

According to Stephen Hicks from the University of Southampton, "Water is a key component in causing the mantle to melt, which eventually forms magma at shallower depths, causing potentially hazardous volcanoes. It may also lubricate or increase the pressure along titanic faults that have the potential to cause huge earthquakes."

The Caribbean is known for its frequent tectonic activity, with recent reminders including the 1995 volcanic eruption on Montserrat, and the devastating M7.0 Haiti Earthquake in January 2010. In February 1843, the region was shaken by an estimated M8.3 quake, which ruined Pointe-a-Pitre in Guadeloupe and killed one third (1,500) of its inhabitants. Meanwhile, 2,000 people are thought to have perished in a quake of unspecified magnitude which shook Jamaica in 1692.

By tracking the movement of water down to hundreds of miles depth, the group of scientists hopes to better understand what causes the build-up of magma in some places, and why some parts of the plate boundary produce more earthquakes than others.

Source: The Guardian

Read 207 times Last modified on Wednesday, 17 May 2017 12:41

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