Could heavy snowfall and rain contribute to some earthquakes?


A recent study found that heavy snowfall and rain events over the past several years in northern Japan have contributed to earthquake swarms. This is the first time that climatic conditions have been found to trigger some earthquakes. Seismic activity in the region was surprisingly found to be synchronized with certain changes in underground pressure, and those changes were influenced by seasonal patterns of snowfall and rainfall. Scientists suspect that this new connection between earthquakes and climate may not be unique to Japan. Since late 2020, hundreds of small earthquakes – earthquake swarms – have shaken Japan's Noto Peninsula. Changes in seismic velocity in 2020 appeared to be in sync with the seasons. When it rains or snows, the weight increases, increasing pore pressure, which slows down seismic waves. With a hydromechanical model, changes in excess pore pressure beneath the Noto Peninsula were tracked before and during the earthquake swarm. When seismic velocity observations and models of excess pore pressure were overlapped, they fitted very well. When snowfall data, particularly extreme snowfall events, were included, the fit between the model and observations was stronger.

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