A recent study held by researchers from Tokio suggests that vast and dangerous earthquakes could be the result of the moon’s gravitational forces creating high tides and intensifying fractures on the soil.
Earthquakes are considered one of the nature’s most dangerous forces and can take thousands of lives in a matter of minutes, which is why the scientific world has made such an effort to understand this phenomenon better and possibly predict it.
Quakes, as people know them, are referred to as the shaking of the ground or Earth’s soil that blasts energy up to the surface while creating violent movements. A team of researchers from the University of Tokio decided to analyze better the causes of high-magnitude quakes.
According to the study published in the Natural Geoscience journal, the gravitational pull of the sun, the moon, and the Earth causes high tides and breaks the soil, which then causes the Earth’s plaques to move and create dangerous quakes.
The gravitational pull of the moon is something scientists have known for ages. It makes the Earth remain on its axis, and it’s the cause of high and low ocean tides. For example, if there’s a full moon a fisherman tends to expect strong ocean movements.
However, the team of Japanese researchers led by Satoshi Ide links the moon’s pull and the sea’s high tides to the beginning of dangerous and high-level earthquakes with a magnitude of over 5.5.
“Large earthquakes are more probable during periods of high tidal stress,” the team of researchers wrote in the paper.
The moon and earthquakes
On their investigation, the team of researchers found that there was a strong link between high levels of “tidal stress” with major earthquakes and when the stress levels were high the quakes happened.
Tidal stress or tidal force is what scientists categorized as the second effect of gravity, and it’s responsible for high sea levels. This happens because of the gravitational force between two objects, in this case, the Earth and the moon are not that constant and tends to pull more from one side than the other.
When the moon starts to pull Earth with its gravitational force, it tends to push oceans towards itself causing the sea to be bigger on one side and lower in the other. However, the moon is not the only responsible, and this phenomenon increases when the Earth is aligned with the moon and the sun because a more gravitational force is being injected.
The pressure felt by Earth from the gravitational pull results in small fractures of the soil, that are most commonly unable to be noticed or felt by people but with the pass of time they tend to be bigger.
It’s as if the pull was slowly fracturing the Earth’s floor and at some point, it will break, researchers explain this is what happens with high sea tides. A small fracture on the soil is affected by the pressure and ends in a catastrophic quake.
“The probability of a tiny rock failure expanding to a gigantic rupture increases,” read the report wrote by the Japanese team.
In order to understanding the phenomenon better, researchers recreated the intense tidal stresses that were targeted two weeks prior a large earthquake happened. The team found that high-stress levels were found before every giant earthquake, but they didn’t find any relation between small quakes and stress levels.
Researchers evaluated the tidal stresses before large earthquakes such as the 9.1 Indonesia tsunami that took the lives of over 230,000 people and the 2011 quake that happened in Japan causing the meltdown of the Fukushima plant and leaving 15,000 people dead. All of the events were linked to the moon’s gravitational pull.
Researchers are hoping that with their findings more technologies can be developed to predict or augment the probabilistic data of an earthquake before it happens, focusing mostly on huge and dangerous quakes.
According to Nature, John Vidale, who is a seismologist from the University of Washington and declined previous links between the moon’s pull and earthquakes, believed that the results of the Japanese study were “plausible.”
However, the results of the survey still need to be evaluated for accuracy, since many other large quakes above the 5.5 magnitudes have happened without high tidal stress or the moon’s pull.