Quakes eat up the heat

Published in Chemistry World, 26 Mar 2009

More than half of the heat generated by friction in earthquakes could go to towards endothermic reactions, a study by geoscientists in Japan and Taiwan has shown. The conclusion suggests that chemical reactions ought to be more seriously considered when modelling the dangerous events.

Earthquakes are among the most deadly natural hazards, yet are also some of the most poorly understood. They tend to occur at the ‘fault zones’ between two tectonic plates in the Earth’s crust, and start as small cracks which quickly grow in a chaotic fashion. During these events a huge amount of energy bursts free – perhaps hundreds of megaJoules per square metre – in the form of seismic waves, fractures and heat. To gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanics, geoscientists need to know how the energy is distributed between these forms. […]

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