Weather Goes Underground

Could rapidly moving areas of low atmospheric pressure be responsible for some landslides and earthquakes? New research published in the journal Nature Geosciences says there could be a connection between what happens in the atmosphere and instability on land.

In an article on the USA Today website, Doyle Rice says that according to the study, low atmospheric pressure exerts less force upon the ground, causing the upward movement of air and water molecules in the soil. This reduces the friction that would normally hold the ground together and renders it unstable. Scientists examined a slow-moving landslide in southwestern Colorado for nine months and saw a pattern of atmospheric tides affecting the slide with its daily cycles of high and low pressures.

Geologists have until now believed there was no relationship between seismic and atmospheric phenomena, Rice writes. But in the fourth century B.C., he says, Aristotle believed winds trapped in subterranean caves caused earthquakes. These recent findings, by the U.S. Geological Survey, are shaking up current views on natural disasters.

Another study published earlier this year in Nature linked some earthquakes to the low atmospheric pressure of typhoons.

To read the USA Today article, please click here:
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2009-11-12-hquakeweather12_ST_N.htm