Tidal tugs on Teflon faults drive slow-slipping earthquakes

Slow earthquakes happen between the hazardous locked zone and the viscous portion that slips silently

Slow earthquakes happen between the hazardous locked zone and the viscous portion that slips silently.

Unknown to most people, the Pacific Northwest experiences a magnitude-6.6 earthquake about once a year. The reason nobody notices is that the movement happens slowly and deep underground, in a part of the fault whose behavior, known as slow-slip, was only recently discovered.

A University of Washington seismologist who studies slow-slip quakes has looked at how they respond to tidal forces from celestial bodies and used the result to make a first direct calculation of friction deep on the fault. Though these events occur much deeper and on a different type of fault than the recent catastrophe in Nepal, the findings could improve general understanding of when and how faults break.

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