A fundamental riddle of earthquake occurrence is that tectonic motions at plate interiors are steady, changing only subtly over millions of years, but at plate boundary faults, the plates are stuck for hundreds of years and then suddenly jerk forward in earthquakes. Why does this happen? The answer, as formulated by Harry F. Reid (Reid 1910, 192) is that the Earth’s crust is elastic, behaving like a very stiff slab of rubber sliding over a substrate of “honey”-like asthenosphere, and that faults are restrained by friction. The crust near the faults—zones of weakness that separate the plates—slowly deforms, building up stress until frictional resistance on the fault is overcome and the fault suddenly slips. For the past century, scientists have sought ways to use this knowledge to forecast earthquakes.
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