Archive | Earthquakes

New Clues Found About Earth's Formation

CALGARY, Alberta, May 3 (UPI) — University of Calgary scientists in Canada say they have used measurements of distant earthquakes to learn more about the Earth’s core and its formation.

Professor David Eaton and doctoral student Catrina Alexandrakis said knowledge of the composition and the of that core is key to unraveling the source of the Earth’s magnetic field and the formation of our planet.

To determine the materials that make up the Earth’s core, which is 1,797 miles below the surface, Eaton and Alexandrakis said they measured the seismic wave speed at the top of the core.

“Observation of distant earthquakes is one of the few tools that scientists have to investigate deep parts of the Earth,” Alexandrakis said. “This isn’t the first time earthquake data has been used, but our research method is the most definitive to date.”

Using a digital processing approach, they said they analyzed faint signals produced by 44 earthquakes and were able to measure the sound speed at the top of Earth’s core with unprecedented accuracy.

They said their results will help to guide research efforts at laboratories where core composition is studied by simulating extreme pressure and temperature conditions that exist in the Earth’s core.

The study appears in the journal Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors.

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USGS to Upgrade Quake Monitoring Networks

RESTON, Va., April 20 (UPI) — The U.S. Geological Survey says it has awarded $2.7 million to four organizations to improve monitoring of the Earth’s crust in earthquake-prone areas.

The awards, made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, went to the University of California-Berkeley, Central Washington University, the University of California-San Diego and UNAVCO Inc. to improve networks that detect minute changes in the Earth’s crust caused by faulting in earthquake-prone regions.

“Monitoring these small changes … is an integral part of assessing the likely rate of large earthquakes,” the USGS said. “For optimal performance in real time, many existing monitoring stations need modern sensors and improved communication systems. Funds provided through six cooperative agreements will improve monitoring capabilities by replacing obsolete sensors that may be more than 10 years old and by upgrading communications so that real-time data streams are more reliable or possible for the first time.”

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Study: Toads can predict earthquakes

MILTON KEYNES, England, April 1 (UPI) — British scientists say they’ve discovered common toads can detect impending earthquakes, sometimes days in advance of any apparent seismic activity.

Researchers from The Open University said they found 96 percent of male toads (Bufo bufo) in a population abandoned their breeding site five days before an earthquake struck L’Aquila in Italy last year. The breeding site was located about 45 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.

The scientists said the number of paired toads at the site also dropped to zero three days before the earthquake.

“Our study is one of the first to document animal behavior before, during and after an earthquake,” the study’s lead author, Rachel Grant, said. “Our findings suggest that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues, such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system.”

The research is reported in the Zoological Society of London’s Journal of Zoology.

Work chemicals may up breast cancer risk

MONTREAL, April 1 (UPI) — A Canadian study found occupational exposure to synthetic fibers and petroleum products may increase a woman’s breast cancer risk, researchers say.

France Labreche of the Occupational Health Research Institute in Montreal suggests exposure to workplace chemicals and pollutants — synthetic fibers and petroleum products may increase breast cancer risk the most — before a woman reaches her mid-30s could triple her risk of developing breast cancer after menopause.

The study involves more than 1,100 post-menopausal women, 556 of whom had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996-1997 in Montreal, when they were between the ages 50-75. More than 600 women acted as a control group.

A team of chemists and industrial hygienists investigated the women’s exposure to some 300 different workplace substances.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, finds women exposed at work to acrylic fibers had a seven-fold risk of breast cancer, while those exposed to nylon fibers had double the risk.

The researchers say their findings could be due to chance, but the findings are consistent with the theory that breast tissue is more sensitive to harmful chemicals before a woman reaches her 40s.

NASA and NOAA: 50 years of weather studies

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 1 (UPI) — NASA scientists say it was 50 years ago Thursday the United States launched the world’s first weather satellite, revolutionizing weather forecasting.

Meteorologists said the Television Infrared Observation Satellite, known as TIROS-1, opened a new dimension in meteorology for both the space agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the National Weather Service.

“TIROS-1 started the satellite observations and interagency collaborations that produced vast improvements in weather forecasts, which have strengthened the nation,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “It also laid the foundation for our current global view of Earth that underlies all of climate research and the field of Earth system science.”

NASA said the first image from TIROS-1 was a fuzzy picture of thick bands and clusters of clouds over the United States. An image captured a few days later revealed a typhoon approximately 1,000 miles east of Australia.

“This satellite forever changed weather forecasting,” said Jane Lubchenco, NOAA’s administrator. “Since TIROS-1, meteorologists have far greater information about severe weather and can issue more accurate forecasts and warnings that save lives and protect property.”

NOAA and NASA scientists say they now are planning the next generation of weather satellites. Beginning in 2015, those spacecraft will have twice the clarity of today’s satellites and will provide more than 20 times the information.

Schizophrenia memory deficits cause found

NEW YORK, April 1 (UPI) — A U.S. study in mice suggests the biggest known recurrent genetic cause of schizophrenia disrupts linkage between the brain’s decision-making and memory hubs.

Columbia University researchers said that disruption in brain communications results in working-memory deficits.

“Our findings pinpoint a specific circuit and mechanism by which a mutation produces a core feature of the disorder,” said Dr. Joshua Gordon, who led the study that was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Simons Foundation.

The researchers said it’s been long suspected a brain connectivity problem was involved in schizophrenia, although the disorder is thought to be 70 percent heritable.

Prior to the new study, neuroimaging of schizophrenia patients had found abnormal connections between the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the executive hub, and the hippocampus, the memory hub. It was also known a mutation in the suspect site on chromosome 22 boosts schizophrenia risk 30-fold and the investigators said that tiny missing section of genetic material, called a microdeletion, has often turned up in genetic studies of schizophrenia. But the mutation’s link to the disturbed connectivity and working-memory deficit was not known, the scientists said.

In the new study, the investigators discovered mice with the chromosome 22 mutation demonstrated inferior synchrony, learning and performance levels as compared to control mice.

The research that included Drs. Joseph Gogos and Maria Karayiorgou is reported in the journal Nature.

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Study: Toads Can Predict Earthquakes

MILTON KEYNES, England, April 1 (UPI) — British scientists say they’ve discovered common toads can detect impending earthquakes, sometimes days in advance of any apparent seismic activity.

Researchers from The Open University said they found 96 percent of male toads (Bufo bufo) in a population abandoned their breeding site five days before an earthquake struck L’Aquila in Italy last year. The breeding site was located about 45 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.

The scientists said the number of paired toads at the site also dropped to zero three days before the earthquake.

“Our study is one of the first to document animal behavior before, during and after an earthquake,” the study’s lead author, Rachel Grant, said. “Our findings suggest that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues, such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system.”

The research is reported in the Zoological Society of London’s Journal of Zoology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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6.1 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Philippines

MANILA, Philippines, March 25 (UPI) — A strong earthquake struck the Philippines Thursday but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter of the 6.1 magnitude quake was in the sea, about 85 miles (135 kilometers) southwest of the capital of Manila and about 80 miles (124 kilometers) west-northwest of Calapan in Mindoro.

CNN, quoting the Philippines media, reported the quake was felt in Quezon City on the island of Luzon and also in the Lubang Island.

The Philippines National Disaster Coordinating Council said initial reports indicated no damage or injuries in the affected region, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

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Three Earthquakes Jolt Philippines

MANILA, Philippines, March 23 (UPI) — Three earthquakes struck the Philippines Tuesday, with two in the same region, the country’s Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.

One quake, registering a magnitude of 5.7, was about 18 miles northeast of Laoag City in the northern Luzon area, with a second quake measuring 3.2 about 24 miles from the city, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Another quake, with a 3.8-magnitude, rumbled in the Visayas region, about 10 miles northeast of Ormoc City, officials said.

Officials said they had no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

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Precise Tectonic Plate Model Created

MADISON, Wis., March 23 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve created a model precisely describing the movements of the 25 tectonic plates that account for about 97 percent of Earth’s surface.

The project, which took 20 years to complete, is said to describe a dynamic three-dimensional puzzle of planetary proportions.

The model was created by University of Wisconsin-Madison geophysicist Chuck DeMets, Richard Gordon of Rice University and Donald Argus of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“This model can be used to predict the movement of one plate relative to any other plate on the Earth’s surface,” DeMets said. “Plate tectonics describe almost everything about how the Earth’s surface moves and deforms, but it’s remarkably simple in a mathematical way.”

The researchers said Earth’s tectonic plates are in constant motion, sliding past one another as they float atop the planet’s molten interior. The collisions and shifts can create mountain ranges or cause earthquakes, such as the ones that struck Haiti and Chile this year.

“We live on a dynamic planet, and it’s important to understand how the surface of the planet changes,” Gordon says. “The frequency and magnitude of earthquakes depend upon how the tectonic plates move. Understanding how plates move can help us understand surface processes like mountain-building and subsurface processes like mantle convection.”

The research is to be reported in the April issue of the Geophysical Journal International.

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Chile Power Supply Still Unstable in Parts

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 22 (UPI) — Electricity power supply in Chile remains sporadically unstable in regions that were hit most directly in the Feb. 27 earthquake.

One of the suppliers, AES Gener Corp., said 95 percent of its installed capacity in Chile was operational though some areas needed further work on the systems to restore them to full service.

The National Emergency Office said that most the power supply was restored after the blackout last week that resulted from a failure of the grid. The blackout affected Santiago and other cities across Chile.

Officials said the service was likely to remain unstable in some parts while experts continued work on identifying and rectifying problems with the supply. A spokesman urged Chileans to remain prepared for interruptions and warned that a blackout could always happen amid uncertain conditions of the operating system.

Energy Minister Ricardo Raineri warned normalization of the power supply system could take up to six months due to the devastation caused by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake.

Raineri said blackouts could recur without warning but called on citizens to help authorities restore the situation to normal through calm coordination of relief and reconstruction programs.

AES Gener, a 71 percent owned subsidiary of AES Corporation, said it has inspected all facilities for damage from the earthquake and repairs have been largely completed. As of March 22, 95 percent, or 2,975 megawatts out of 3,129 megawatts of AES Gener’s total capacity serving the Chilean market is operational, the company said.

“At any given time, certain facilities are not operational due to dispatch priorities or regularly scheduled maintenance,” it added.

AES Gener’s construction sites, the 518-megawatt Angamos plant, 152-megawatt Guacolda 4 and 270-megawatt Campiche facilities, weren’t affected by the earthquake or subsequent aftershocks, AES Gener said.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera is considering a selective tax hike to raise cash for a $30 billion reconstruction program. Pinera took office less than two weeks after the temblor struck.

Last week he announced an emergency program to create 60,000 jobs in the stricken areas as part of an overall effort to restore basic amenities, education and healthcare.

More than 200,000 homes were destroyed by the earthquake and resulting tsunami and more than 2,750 schools and 35 hospitals have had to be abandoned until they are rebuilt.

The government’s plan is to raise the royalty tax on the country’s mining sector, Chile’s most important earner mainly through copper exports. But the plan is controversial and is likely to be opposed by the powerful mining industry, which also faces plans for a partial privatization.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Chile Struck by More Earthquakes

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 16 (UPI) — Another pair of earthquakes rattled coastal Chile overnight, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

A 6.7-magnitude quake struck Monday before midnight and a 5.5-magnitude tremor rumbled just after midnight, CNN reported Tuesday.

USGS indicated both quakes were about 35 to 45 miles north of Concepcion, which was heavily damaged by a huge 8.8-magnitude earthquake Feb. 27.

Vicente Nunez, Chile’s National Emergencies Office director, called for calm, saying there was no threat from a tsunami. He said he had no initial reports of injuries or major damage.

Since Sunday, aftershocks have rocked Chile, with at least seven of 5-magnitude or above recorded.

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Moderate Quake Rumbles Near Los Angeles

PICO RIVERA, Calif., March 16 (UPI) — A moderate 4.4-magnitude earthquake rumbled in Los Angeles County early Tuesday morning, about a mile northeast of Pico Rivera, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

People in Hawthorne, Whittier and West Covina reported the quake awakened them about 4:04 a.m., KTLA-TV, Los Angles, reported. The epicenter was about 11 miles east-southeast from Los Angeles.

The earthquake was about 11 miles deep, the USGS said.

Officials said they had no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

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