PerspectiveGeophysics

Slow But Not Quite Silent

Science  20 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5627, pp. 1886-1887
DOI: 10.1126/science.1086163

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Summary

Regular earthquakes release large amounts of strain accumulated in Earth's crust within a very short time. Recently, a different type of earthquake has been reported from subduction zones around the world. Deep in Earth's crust, "slow" earthquakes may last weeks or months. In their Perspective, Melbourne and Webb explain that while slow, these earthquakes are not silent, as originally assumed. The authors highlight the report by Rogers and Dragert, who show that slow earthquakes in the Cascadia subduction zone, off the western coast of North America, are accompanied by a tremor that is absent when slow faulting is not occurring. The earthquakes are likely caused by fluid flow, a mechanism that may also apply to regular earthquakes.