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Study: No big 'domino' earthquakes

March 28, 2011 at 7:48 PM   |   Comments

MENLO PARK, Calif., March 28 (UPI) -- Major earthquakes like the Sendai quake that devastated Japan don't cause similar disasters on the other side of the world, U.S. researchers say.

Geophysicists say tremors on the scale of the Sendai quake can trigger other earthquakes but those shocks are all very small or sit close to the original fault break, ScienceNews.org reported Monday.

"If California is ready to go, it's because California is ready to go," Jian Lin, a geophysicist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, said. "Not because an earthquake in California would be triggered by Japan."

Previous studies have shown major earthquakes send out waves that can circle the globe several times over.

In the current study, geophysicists at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., traced the seismic wave data of every magnitude-7 or larger earthquake -- more than 200 in all -- from the past 30 years.

After an initial earthquake, faults within 600 miles frequently ruptured domino-style.

On a world-wide scale, however, the researchers said they couldn't find a second domino larger than magnitude-5.

For geophysicists, understanding the mechanics behind these findings is goal number one.

"Ultimately, we'd like to understand the physics behind it," Tom Parson of the USGS said. "That makes us a lot more comfortable when we're forecasting things."

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