March 12, 2015
Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research
Computer simulations use the speed of seismic waves from earthquakes to reveal the existence of subterranean structures. In this view of the mantle below the Pacific Ocean, slower waves are shown in red and orange while faster waves are shown in green and blue. The faster waves are associated with subduction zones where one tectonic plate sinks underneath another plate. (Image courtesy of Ebru Bozdağ, University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, and David Pugmire, Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
When a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck central China’s Sichuan province in 2008, seismic waves rippled through the region, toppling apartment houses in the city of Chengdu and swaying office buildings 1,000 miles away in Shanghai.
Though destructive, earthquakes provide benefit in one respect: they help researchers learn about the structure of the Earth, which in turn could lead to more accurate…
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