Jupiter moon: Scientists could use Europa ‘tectonic plates’ to predict EARTHQUAKES | Science | News

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Yesterday the Caribbean was threatened by a tsunami after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck near Honduras.

And last year Italy, Mexico, Iran, Iraq and China were among countries which were struck by killer earthquakes which left dozens dead and many others injured.

Jupiter’s moon Europa was the centre of a scientific breakthrough last year after researchers at Brown University in the US, in a new study, found evidence of tectonic plates pushing against one another, a process known as subduction.

Brandon Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences at Brown University said: “It’s fascinating to think that we might have plate tectonics somewhere other than Earth.”

But could a study of Europa help scientists predict earthquakes and alert authorities before they happen? Mr Johnson reveals it could be possible.


Europa’s tectonic plates be used to understand earthquakes back on our home planet

The Brown University professor added: “Thinking from the standpoint of comparative planetology, if we can now study plate tectonics in this very different place, it might be able to help us understand how plate tectonics got started on the Earth.”

Additional research by NASA in 2014 suggested that Europa has “compelling similarities to our own planet Earth”.

Simon Kattenhorn, of the University of Idaho who participated in the research said: “Europa may be more Earth-like than we imagined if it has a global plate tectonic system.

“Not only does this discovery make it one of the most geologically interesting bodies in the solar system, it also implies two-way communication between the exterior and interior – a way to move material from the surface into the ocean – a process which has significant implications for Europa’s potential as a habitable world.”

Meanwhile, Curt Niebur, a NASA scientist added: “Europa continues to reveal itself as a dynamic world with compelling similarities to our own planet Earth.

“Studying Europa addresses fundamental questions about this potentially habitable icy moon and the search for life beyond Earth.”

These studies come as a ’remarkable’ scientific discovery revealed that geologisst may be able to predict major earthquakes five years in advance.

Researchers from the University of Colorado and the University of Montana believe fluctuation in the Earth’s core may be linked to an increased earthquake with magnitudes of 7.0 or higher in the last 100 years.

Roger Bilham, a geologist at University of Colorado (UC), said: “The Earth offers us a 5-years heads up on future earthquakes, which is remarkable.”

The research came as Mexico was reeling from two earthquakes that killed hundreds of people in September last year.

Tectonic plates on EuropaNASA/Noah Kroese, I.NK

Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s moon Europa

According to the scientists, tiny fluctuations in the length of Earth’s day, particular slowdowns have correlated with periods of major earthquakes.

They claim a spike, which adds two to five more quakes than typical, happens well after a slowdown begins and so forecasting the increases and decreases of the Earth’s days could allow geologists to predict an earthquake five years before it happens.

When day length changes over decades, Earth’s magnetic field also develops a temporary ripple, and the researchers believe that slight changes in the flow of the molten iron of the outer core may be responsible for both effects.

They hypothesise that the movement of the molten outer core sticks could change the flow of the liquid metal, altering the magnetic field, and transferring enough momentum between the mantle and the core to also affect day length.

Mr Bilham, who presented his and Rebecca Bendick’s findings at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, said: “Calculations show the asthenosphere to have an appropriate viscosity to account for the delay between deceleration and subduction zone seismicity, however, a geodetic test of the anticipated westward overshoot would be of utility.

“Whatever the mechanism, the 5-6 year advanced warning of increased seismic hazards afforded by the first derivative of the LoD is fortuitous, and has utility in disaster planning.

“The year 2017 marks six years following a deceleration episode that commenced in 2011, suggesting that the world has now entered a period of enhanced global seismic productivity with a duration of at least five years.”

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