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No. 86: Mar-Apr 1993

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Geysers As Detectors Of Distant Earthquakes

June 1992. Landers, California. An earthquake of magnitude 7.5 shook this small town. In apparent sympathy with the Landers disturbance, seismic activity appeared from one end of California to the other, as well as in Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.

The Landers quake stimulated unusual seismicity
The Landers quake stimulated unusual seismicity in the solid black areas.
Yellowstone Park, Wyoming. Here, 1100 kilometers from Landers, the geyser Echinus, which had been erupting on a regular schedule of every 56 minutes, went berserk. It didn't settle down for 34 hours. Geyser eruptions are frequently disturbed by nearby quakes, but Landers was hardly nearby!

The seismology community.

"Those distant shocks have startled seismologists as well as ordinary residents. Conventional thinking, at least among U.S. researchers, holds that stress generated when a fault slips in an earthquake peters out within a distance equal to a couple of times the length of the ruptured fault. For Landers, where about 70 kilometers of fault ruptured, this would amount to only about onetenth of the observed reach."

Seismologists are now searching for ways to account for these unexpectedly far-reaching effects.

(Monastersky, Richard; "Yellowstone Geyser Shows Quake Effect," Science News, 142:428, 1992. Also: Kerr, Richard A.; "Landers Quake's Long Reach Is Shaking Up Seismologists," Science, 259:29, 1993.)

From Science Frontiers #86, MAR-APR 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987