2010 Chile Earthquake Caused ‘Icequakes’ In Antarctica

The giant earthquake that hit Chile back in 2010 is the reason behind minor ice-quakes in Antarctica stretching 4,700 kilometers to the south, according to the scientists.  Sensors captured the little shakeups in West Antarctica within six-hours of the massive earthquake in Chile, indicating for the first time that the greatest ice-sheet of the world is prone to the far away but powerful earthquakes.

2010 Chile Earthquake Caused 'Icequakes' In Antarctica

2010 earthquake data not clear

Team of scientists reported to the Journal Nature Geo-science that twelve out of 42 monitoring stations, which were marked across the region, indicated the “clear evidence” of an increase in high-frequency seismic signals. Scientists also said that the signals coincided with the sign of ice cracks near the surface.

The research paper noted that the data received on the 2010 earthquakes was not clear. Monitoring station in West Antarctica’s Ellsworth Mountains recorded the most accurate and clear signs, recording the telltale seismic signature. But signals at other stations were either hazy or did not record anything.

Zhigang Peng at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta said that the highest possibility is that the shocks came from a movement within the ice sheet itself and not due to any fault in the bedrock beneath.

Peng mentioned in an email that even though it is not clear, but the major possibility is that the seismic signals are showing from the ice cracking within the ice sheet, probably very near to the surface.

More tools available now

The earthquake occurred on February 27, 2010 on the coast of Chile’s Maule region, marking 8.8 on a scale in magnitude, is one of the largest quakes ever recorded. It took a toll on the life of more than 500 people and caused damage worth $30 billion. Smaller quakes were felt in North America due to the passing shock wave that caused shallow faults to slip in tectonically active regions.

Geologists have tried to dig out the reason the ice-sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, where the rock is considered to be seismically peaceful, can be affected by the far away quakes. Few years back, there was hardly any method to identify this, but with an advancement in technology new tools are now available including small network sensors that can be deployed near and on the top of the sheets.

The paper concluded that the large sheets of ice can respond to a far away strong earthquakes. However, there is much work to be done in the direction.