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A look at the different types of earthquakes and why they happen.

Chance of mega-quake increases during this natural event

Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 3:59 PM - New research may help predict when there's a heightened risk for deadly earthquakes, scientists say.

A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience finds that the same forces that create high tides also have a role in setting off significant quakes, Phys.org reports.

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When the sun and moon align we can see extra-high tides. According to researchers that contributed to the study, bigger earthquakes are more likely during these periods of "high tidal stress."

When gravity's pull is the strongest, "the probability of a tiny rock failure expanding to a gigantic rupture increases."

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Over the past twenty years, University of Tokyo's Satoshi Ide and his colleagues examined the world's largest quakes (those reaching magnitude 5.5 or higher.) Ide and his team found no specific correlation between "tidal stress" (the measure of gravitational pull) and smaller quakes, Phys.org reports.

But many of earth's largest quakes took place when the tug of the sun and the moon were especially powerful -- namely, the devastating 2004 earthquake in Sumatra, which claimed 220,000 lives as it unleashed a powerful tsunami toward southeast Asia. The same can be said for Japan's 9.0 magnitude tremor in 2011, which killed roughly 19,000 near the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The science behind earthquake triggers and evolution is still widely unknown, but according to Ide, these discoveries "can be used to improve probabilistic earthquake forecasting, especially for extremely large earthquakes," Phys.org notes.

RELATED VIDEO: How ready is B.C. for 'the big one' when it hits?

SOURCE: Phys.org | Nature Geoscience

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