New 3-D could reduce impact of catastrophic earthquakes

New 3-D could reduce impact of catastrophic earthquakes

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According to a study released Friday, new 3-D map could ultimately assist scientists in better understanding earthquakes, possibly even allowing scientists to predict when they will strike.

A team of scientists, using data collected by laser scans of Earth’s land surface taken from aircraft, say the new maps create the most comprehensive before-and-after picture of an earthquake yet.

Scientists from the U.S., Mexico and China working with the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping flew over the area struck by the magnitude-7.2 El Mayor-Cucapah earthquake in northern Mexico in 2010. The earthquake created a massive rupture. These kinds of scans before and after large quakes may help reveal where exactly the quakes ruptured the Earth down to a scale of just a few inches, which may help experts prepare for the hazards of such quakes, researchers said, say scientists.

“We can recognize their activity from how they disrupt the landscape, but we don’t have a good way of assessing the potential size of earthquakes they produce, because they tend to rupture together with other, nearby faults in a complicated way,” said University of California-Davis geologist and lead author Michael Oskin.

The researchers used a virtual reality facility at the university to analyze the data, comparing before and after photos from the location to determine what impact the earthquake had on the ground, the university said. By studying the deformation that occurred around seven small faults responsible for the seismic activity, they discovered how each of them played a role in causing the quake to occur.

Among the major advancements provided by the latest data includes the ability to better forecast how massive earthquakes located miles off of the coast could impact low-lying cities.

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