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‘Underground quartz may be behind quakes’

US: Underground quartz deposits worldwide may be behind earthquakes, mountain building and other continental tectonics, a discovery that may aid in predicting tremblers, according to a study by Utah State University geophysicist Anthony Lowry and Marta Perez-Gussinye of University of London.

Using newly developed remote sensing technology known as Earthscope, researchers found that quartz indicates a weakness in the earth’s crust likely to spawn a geologic event such as an earthquake or a volcano. They examined temperature and gravity across the Western US from a movable network of seismic instruments to describe the geological properties of the earth’s crust. They discovered that quartz crystal deposits are found wherever mountains or fault lines occur in states like California, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. Lowry said the breakthrough came after repeated testing revealed a correlation between quartz deposits and geologic events that was “completely eye-popping.”

The finding is to be published in the journal Nature. It may solve a riddle of the ages about the formation and location of earthquake faults, mountains, valleys and plains. “Certainly the question of why mountains occur where they do has been around since the dawn of time,” Lowry told Reuters.

According to researchers, quartz also may account for the movements of continents known as continental drift or plate tectonics. The team linked rock properties to movements of the earth, explaining how quartz contains trapped water that is released when heated under stress, allowing rocks to slide and flow in what Lowry termed a “viscous cycle.”

While places like Japan, Southern California and Yellowstone National Park are known to be in the active phase of the so-called viscous cycle, other regions like the Appalachians in the Eastern United States are likely in an inactive phase. The research also may provide clues to everything from safe sitting of nuclear power plants to the structural demands of large dams.

Source: Reuters