Science 3 min read

Researcher Discovers Hurricane can Trigger Seismic Activities

Wenyuan Fan, a researcher from Florida State University found that hurricanes or strong storms can trigger earthquake-like seismic activities in the ocean.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A Florida State University researcher, Wenyuan Fan, recently discovered that hurricane or other intense storms could trigger seismic activities. He coined the term “stormquakes” to describe this phenomenon.

According to Fan, Stormquakes involve a combination of the atmosphere, ocean, and solid earth.

During intense storms, hurricanes transfer energy into the ocean as strong ocean waves. In turn, the waves could interact with the solid earth to produce extreme seismic activities, says the researcher.

For the study, Fan and his colleagues analyzed seismic and oceanographic records that span as far back as ten years – September 2006 to February 2019. This led them to uncover the link between strong storms and intense seismic activities at ocean banks.

The result from the analysis suggests that more than 10,000 stormquakes occurred between 2006 and 2019 in the United States and Canada. These include the offshore of New England, Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico as well as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and British Columbia.

Fan noted:

“We can have seismic sources in the ocean, just like earthquakes within the crust. The exciting part is seismic sources caused by hurricanes can last from hours to days.”

Detecting the Seismic Activities From Stormquakes

Fan and his team developed a new approach that’ll not only identify and locate seismic events, but it could also tell whether the event is a stormquake.

The seismic event must occur on stormy days for the researchers to consider it a stormquake. Also, the event must meet other geophysical standards to establish a strong link between the storm and seismic events.

Finally, other seismic activities such as earthquake must have been ruled out beforehand.

According to the researchers, Hurricane Bill is an example of an intense storm that led to a stormquake.

The Atlantic hurricane started on August 15, 2009, and strengthened into Category 4. So, by the time the hurricane struck Newfoundland, it was a tropical storm.

However, as it approached offshore New England seven days later, Hurricane Bill had reached Category 1. Seismic activities which led to transcontinental surface waves soon followed off New England and Nova Scotia coasts.

Other intense storms that caused stormquake activities are Hurricane Ike in 2008 and Hurricane Irene in 2011.

With that said, the researchers noted that not all hurricanes cause stormquakes.

For example, one of the costliest storms on record in the United States did not spur stormquakes. Similarly, the scientist found no sign of stormquakes off of Mexico or from New Jersey to Georgia.

Based on the results, Fan suggested that local oceanic features and seafloor topography could strongly influence which hurricanes lead to stormquakes.

The researcher noted:

“We have lots of unknowns. We weren’t even aware of the existence of the natural phenomenon. It highlights the richness of the seismic wavefield and suggests we are reaching a new level of understanding of seismic waves.”

Read More: Marsquakes: What Mars Seismic Study Tells us About Planetary Formation

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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