Earthquakes in Chile Have Permanently Deformed Earth

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Yikes! It seems earthquakes in Chile have done far worse than suspected -- actually deforming the Earth's crust. Structural geologist Richard Allmendinger of Cornell University, along with his colleagues, have found that major earthquakes (with a magnitude 7 or higher) have apparently caused the crust in Northern Chile to crack permanently.

It was earlier believed that Earth rebounds after earthquakes, with blocks of the world's crust springing back to the way they were initially. These rebounds were documented by GPS systems that monitor the earth. But massive quakes seem to be an exception to the rule.

"My graduate students and I originally went to northern Chile to study other features," Allmendinger said. "While we were there, our Chilean colleague, Professor Gabriel González of the Universidad Católica del Norte, took us to a region where these cracks were particularly well-exposed."

"I still remember feeling blown away — never seen anything like them in my 40 years as a geologist — and also perplexed," Allmendinger told OurAmazingPlanet. "What were these features and how did they form? Scientists hate leaving things like this unexplained, so it kept bouncing around in my mind."

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