It’s one of the most enduring mysteries in earthquake science: Why do small earthquakes stay small, while others grow into monsters?
A group of researchers offered a partial, but tantalizing answer this month: The moon and big tides.
The scientists zeroed in on times of high tidal stress, which can occur twice a month, during the full moon and new moon. During these moments, high tides are at their highest — flooding the tallest reaches of a beach — and about six hours later, low tides are at their lowest for the month, with seawater retreating to the farthest point toward the ocean.
This produces massive movement of ocean water and produces high tidal stress. And that tidal stress can change the stress on the fault, and, these scientists suggest, help push small earthquakes that happen to grow into very large earthquakes.
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