Some degree of tectonic stress within the earth originates from gravity acting upon density structures. The work performed by this "gravitational tectonics stress" must have formerly existed as gravitational potential energy contained in the stress-causing density structure. According to the elastic rebound theory (Reid, 1910), the energy of earthquakes comes from an elastic strain field built up by fairly continuous elastic deformation in the period between events. For earthquakes resulting from gravitational tectonic stress, the elastic rebound theory requires the transfer of energy from the gravitational potential of the density structures into an elastic strain field prior to the event. An alternate theory involves partial gravitational collapse of the stress-causing density structures. The earthquake energy comes directly from a net decrease in gravitational potential energy. The gravitational potential energy released at the time of the earthquake is split between the energy released by the earthquake, including work done in the fault zone and an increase in stored elastic strain energy. The stress associated with this elastic strain field should oppose further fault slip. ?? 1981.
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Gravitational potential as a source of earthquake energy