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Chile´s 2010 earthquake impacted in Antartica

Chile´s 2010 earthquake impacted in Antartica

Posted by José Peralta on August 13, 2014

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated Chile’s coastal regions of El Maule and Bío Bío in February 2010 rumbled more than 3,000 miles away and into Antarctica’s frozen landscape, according to a new study published on Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.


“This is to our knowledge the first report on possible interaction between earthquake events at tectonic plate boundaries and icequakes in polar regions,” Zhigang Peng, geophysicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, told The Santiago Times.

Dr. Jake Walter, research associate at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin, said icequakes are the result of violent ground movement which causes glaciers to crack or calve smaller icesheets.

Along with Walters, and others, Peng analyzed data recorded from 42 Antarctic seismic stations in the six hours before and after the massive 2010 earthquake struck Chile.

In analyzing the data, researchers found that 12 out of the 42 stations recorded high-frequency seismic signals, or small icequakes, generated by rolling motion seismic activity known as Rayleigh waves. Rolling waves are one of two different surface waves that exist and differ from horizontally polarized Love waves.

“This tells us something new about the way the Earth works, and potentially changes our understanding of the way earthquakes proliferate into icefields,” Walter told ABC Science.

Peng explained that the research team stumbled upon the findings.

“We were originally studying the seismic response in South America [caused by the 2010 earthquake], and accidentally chose some stations in Antarctica,” Peng told The Santiago Times.

Months of work and collaboration with seismologists in charge of Antarctica’s activity reveal that frozen grounds like those in Antarctica can be sensitive to large, distant earthquakes. The effects on the ice sheets, however, remain unclear and will require additional research.

“We are in the process of examining the impact of other recent, large earthquakes in Antarctica and other polar regions,” Peng said.

As leader of the study, Peng explained the 2010 event was chosen as it is considered the largest earthquake to strike the southern hemisphere after Chile’s 1960 9.5-magnitude quake. Chile’s seismic activity as well as its resources also make it ideal for seismologists, Peng added.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile on Feb. 27, 2010 and initiated a tsunami that destroyed 220,000 homes. Together, the earthquake and tsunami claimed more than 500 lives.

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