USGS M 2.5+ Earthquakes

Monday, September 19, 2011

Charles Darwin Earthquakes Theory

Charles Darwin Earthquakes Theory - Did He Predict Chile's Latest 8.8?

We all know about Charles Darwin because of his Theory of Evolution through natural selection. But, what you may not know is something I have just learned thanks to National Public Radio: Darwin helped forecast the most recent devastating earthquake in Chile.

This famous naturalist is being credited with giving current scientists and seismologists a better understanding of the warning signs of impending temblors.
On February 20, 1835, Darwin felt an earthquake in Valdivia, Chile during his voyage on the ship, the Beagle. His geological studies and observations helped scientists to forecast the Chilean earthquake that happened last February 27, 2010.
As Darwin visited Chile, he had the perfectly opportune chance to witness the 1835 earthquake first-hand. It destroyed the city of Concepcion and altered the country's landscape. The quake's magnitude is estimated to have been 8.5.

He visited the same area a few years later to make further observations. One thing he had noticed during his original visit was a rotten smell in the air.

He now realized it was from sea life being washed up on shore and being deprived of its watery confines. He also determined that this was not due to the earthquake causing the ocean level to lower from draining. Rather, it was the radical shifting of the Earth's surface that caused the new sea level thus leaving "fish out of water." He noticed a very transformed landscape all around the area.

Darwin observations have led scientists to realize that "a fault segment that has ruptured in a large quake in the past will, once enough strain has again accumulated, likely fail again in a similar-size earthquake (from ScienceNow)." I doubt most people know what an impact Darwin's experiences and observations with earthquakes have on their modern-day study and understanding. I certainly had no clue.

Because of Darwin's work, scientists knew another quake similar to the one Darwin experienced would hit Chili again at some point in time. Obviously, they were correct. The 8.8 quake was a result of pressure building along the same fault since 1835, seismologists believe. Because earthquakes continually strike the same areas in similar fashion, what Darwin observed and theorized has given us a launching pad to a much better understanding of the entire specter of earthquakes.

While no one can predict exactly where and when a quake will occur, we now have a much better idea of how to arrive at an in-the-ballpark-style prediction.
Charles Darwin has left yet another gargantuan scientific legacy which the world somehow never got wind of...until now.

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