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Newfound fault may explain quakes

From San Francisco, at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union

On the morning of Nov. 1, 1755, the thriving port city of Lisbon, Portugal, was devastated by three earthquakes, the tsunamis they triggered, and an ensuing fire. Tens of thousands of residents lost their lives. Now, tsunami simulations suggest that a newly discovered fault zone beneath the Atlantic Ocean could be the source of most of the seismic energy released that day.

Lisbon experienced the three temblors within 10 minutes, says Maria Ana Baptista, a geophysicist at the University of Lisbon. Scientists have long debated where those earthquakes originated because the two known fault zones beneath the ocean southwest of Portugal–the Guadalquivir Ridge and the Gorringe Bank faults–aren't long enough to have released the total seismic energy of that day's quakes.

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