There’s a new way to stop an earthquake: put a volcano in its path | Science News



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How Bizarre

There’s a new way to stop an earthquake: put a volcano in its path

One of the world’s largest active volcanoes stemmed a 7.1 temblor in Japan

2:00pm, October 20, 2016
Mount Aso

EARTHQUAKE VS. VOLCANO   The rupturing of a major earthquake in Japan was cut short by the magma chamber inside the Mount Aso volcano, new research suggests. Its steaming crater is shown above.

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A titanic volcano stopped a mega-sized earthquake in its tracks.

In April, pent-up stress along the Futagawa-Hinagu Fault Zone in Japan began to unleash a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. The rupture traveled about 30 kilometers along the fault until it reached Mount Aso, one of Earth’s largest active volcanoes. That’s where the quake met its demise, geophysicist Aiming Lin of Kyoto University in Japan and colleagues report online October 20 in Science. The quake moved across the volcano’s caldronlike crater and abruptly stopped, the researchers found.

Geophysical evidence suggests that a region of rising magma lurks beneath the volcano. This magma chamber created upward pressure plus horizontal stresses that acted as an impassable roadblock for the seismic slip powering the quake, the researchers propose. This rare meetup, the researchers warn, may have undermined the structural integrity surrounding the magma chamber, increasing the likelihood of an eruption at Aso.


A. Lin et al. Coseismic rupturing stopped by Aso volcano during the 2016 Mw 7.1 Kumamoto earthquake, Japan. Science. Published online October 20, 2016. doi: 10.1126/science.aah4629.

Further Reading

T. Sumner. Seismologists surprised by deep California quakes. Science News Online, October 6, 2016.

T. Sumner. Rainwater can help trigger earthquakes. Science News Online, May 3, 2016.

S. Schwartz. Giant asteroid may have triggered deadly volcano eruptions. Science News. Vol. 188, October 31, 2015, p. 12.

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