Research NewsSeismology

A Slow Start for Earthquakes

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Science  13 Feb 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5353, pp. 985
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5353.985

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Theoretical and lab studies have suggested that faults should give off warning signs as they edge toward rupture, but no one has yet found what they are. Now, researchers using a seemingly roundabout method--testing for the effects of tides on quake timing--offer the strongest evidence yet that some faults do start to slip, rapidly concentrating stress, for hours or days before the full-blown rupture. However, there's no guarantee of successful prediction, researchers caution, as the effect may be so small that it's useless.