Earthquake scientists have a new tool in the race to find the next big one

New research on friction between faults could aid in predicting the world’s most powerful earthquakes. Researchers discovered that fault surfaces bond together, or heal, after an earthquake. A fault that is slow to heal is more likely to move harmlessly, while one that heals quickly is more likely to stick until it breaks in a large, damaging earthquake. Tests allowed them to calculate a slow, harmless type of tremor. The discovery alone won’t allow scientists to predict when the next big one will strike but it does give researchers a valuable new way to investigate the causes and potential for a large, damaging earthquake to happen, and guide efforts to monitor large faults like Cascadia in the Pacific Northwest.

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