Could hurricanes trigger earthquakes?

- Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now Maria blasted through cities with such fury that they leveled homes in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean.

On Tuesday another deadly earthquake rattled Mexico, the second this month, killing hundreds and flattening towns to rubble. While hurricanes are trackable, earthquakes are nearly impossible to predict. At least for now. New research suggests hurricanes could be causing some earthquakes.

"What is a hurricane?" asks earthquake researcher Ross Stein. "It's a huge change in atmospheric pressure. So there's pressure placed on surface of the earth, and earthquakes are a response to stress in the Earth's crust."

Stein's new app 'Temblor' provides the seismic risk based on where you live. Stein says if hurricanes do cause earthquakes, it's likely on islands in the Caribbean.

"Those areas are seismically active," he explains. "They are zones where huge pieces of the earth's crust are being jammed underneath the islands. So those places produce earthquakes all the time."

A hurricane could put pressure on those zones, triggering an earthquake. But, in a case like Mexico, Stein says, it's far less likely a hurricane had any effect.

"The only thing we can track is earthquakes themselves, and the problem is big earthquakes are rarely proceeded by little earthquakes," he says.

Hurricane tracking is a little easier. Meteorologists can predict the speed, direction and motion of storms heading our way about a week in advance. Hurricanes are also seasonal.

"This is the time of year where we expect to have the highest frequency of hurricanes," says Assistant Professor at Stony Brook's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Kevin Reed.

Reed says hurricanes are cyclical in terms of season, though predicting just how severe they will be years in advance isn't possible.

Reed adds this has been a particularly active season. North Atlantic storms average about 10-12 each year. We're already well above that and still have another two and a half months left. Reed says it's important to stay proactive, pay attention to the forecast, and always have an evacuation kit ready.

Up Next:


  • Popular

  • Recent

Stories you may be interested in - includes Advertiser Stories