Scientists Can Predict Mountain Rock Falls Through Tiny Earthquakes

Posted: Dec 20 2016, 7:50am CST | by , Updated: Dec 20 2016, 9:18pm CST , in Latest Science News


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Scientists Can Predict Mountain Rock Falls Through Tiny Earthquakes
Two of the six limestone block samples used in University of Sussex's Permafrost Lab were from the north face of Zugspitze (the highest mountain in Germany). Credit: Technical University of Munich
  • Scientists Can Predict Rock Falls through Tiny Earthquakes

Scientists have developed a new way to predict when mountain rock falls will happen in regions with sub-zero temperatures.

A team of international experts declared that tiny earthquake measuring technology can help predict mountain rock falls in the Swiss Alps and parts of Canada.

Micro seismic technique can help detect rock falls, according to a new research by the University of Sussex, geoscientists from the British Geological Survey and the Technical University of Munich. The technique detects small earthquakes that cause cracks in the rocks.

Scientists use traditional methods to observe rock freezing and thawing by drilling holes into rocks. To study the phenomenon, the scientists created a freezing environment in the Permafrost Laboratory at the University of Sussex and observed the freeze thaw of 6 soft and hard limestone rocks.

The research team recorded 1000 small cracks in limestone after they used seismic technique. The technique did not involve drilling in the rock.

Changes also occur in rocks due to high temperature caused by global warming. Scientists believe that the study would help lots of mountain climbers and skiers.

Due to warm climate, the rocks become unstable so they can be crucial while hiking, said Professor Julian Murton, from the University of Sussex, who was also study leader.

The scientists hope that these techniques would help them in many ways for long term use. Conventional method can’t help see inside the rocks, said Dr. Oliver Kuras, from the British Geological Survey. But, with new technology scientists can take images of even small cracks.

The technique called geo-electrical-monitoring could help visualize and listen to rock cracks, and would also help understand unstable rocks and their fall, stated Professor Michael Krautblatter, from the Technical University of Munich.

The research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface with the title "Monitoring rock freezing and thawing by novel geo-electrical and acoustic techniques".

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