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The relaxed style of western quakes.

The West Coast's laid-back lifestyle apparently extends even to its earthquakes. Three seismologists proposed last week that quakes west of the Rocky Mountains are significantly less stressful than their counterparts in eastern North America.

Seismologists have long known that seismic waves travel much farther in the East than they do through the heavily faulted crust in the West. Many researchers therefore suspected that eastern quakes would damage larger areas, but reports in the last year questioned that presumption.

So, Gilbert A. Bollinger and his colleagues at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg compared damage from 100 western and 40 eastern earthquakes ranging from magnitude 5 to magnitude 7. At a Geological Society of America meeting in Harrisburg, Pa., they reported that damage from eastern earthquakes spreads twice as far as damage from shocks of similar magnitude in the West.

To explain the difference in damage, the group proposes that eastern faults release about twice as much stress during earthquakes as do western ones -- an idea that runs counter to conventional seismological wisdom. They also suggest sediment layers in the East may amplify seismic shaking more than western sediments do.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 4, 1992
Words:192
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