Currently, it is impossible to accurately predict when and where an earthquake might strike. But scientists now believe that Global Positioning System (GPS) data could help spot early warning signs two hours before a big quake strikes.
Earthquakes occur when the slabs of slow-moving rocks just under Earth’s surface — known as tectonic plates — suddenly slide past one another. This releases a wave of energy that triggers shaking on the surface, which can vary from tiny rumbles to massive quakes. For decades, scientists have tried to find a pattern that precedes major earthquakes so that people have time to prepare, but so far these efforts have come up short.
However, GPS satellites may be able to help researchers identify a precursor for powerful earthquakes two hours before they occur by tracking small “slips” in the tectonic plates as they grind against each other, researchers wrote in a new study, published July 20 in the journal Geophysics.
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