Scientists have found that Antarctica is not so unique when it comes to earthquakes. A new study shows that the icy continent had 27 quakes in its eastern parts in 2009.
Past studies suggested that just eight earthquakes had happened in East Antarctica between 1982 and present day. Those findings were odd since Antarctica is just like any other land mass: a tectonic plate on top of a restless molten mantle.
As a result, all continents have routine earthquakes, yet some go undetected. Scientists have long wondered why East Antarctica was so silent. They speculated that because of the continent’s weight the seismic activity was stifled.
A new study challenges that theory. Lead author Amanda Lough noted that East Antarctica’s stillness is no longer an anomaly. In 2009, her team has observed multiple earthquakes in the frozen landscape, which was a big surprise.
Scientists double checked the data to see if the events were real. They found that they haven’t witnessed a spike in earthquakes. It is perfectly normal for so many earthquakes to occur in East Antarctica, although no one has really looked for them before.
Routine Earthquakes Hit Antarctica Every Year
Lough’s team has been keeping an eye on Antarctica’s seismicity since January 2009. Their original research was funded by world’s governments through the 2007-2009 International Polar Year.
The International Polar Years event offers extra funding to researchers interested in the Earth’s poles. Research at the North or South Poles is extremely expensive as scientists need special tools to withstand the cold and charter flights to move around. Research teams also need cooks and other special personnel.
In 2009, Lough’s team installed two dozen seismometers in East Antarctica and left them for a year. In 2010, the team read the data and found that there had been 27 earthquakes in the region. All the quakes were “minor,” with the strongest having a 3.9 magnitude on the Richter scale.
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