Major faults within the California Borderland.
Credit: 2013 MBARI. Base map from Google Maps.

Underwater robots help discover hidden faults

January 31, 2013 by Laura Poppick

(Phys.org)—Hidden beneath ocean waves and masked by sand and mud on the seafloor, underwater faults are notoriously difficult to see and even more difficult to study. As a result, geologists struggle to evaluate the risks associated with these faults and often can’t include them in seismic hazard assessments.

“People have known that a significant portion of plate motion is going on offshore, but because there have been no techniques to get at this, it’s something that is totally left out of the hazard assessments,” said MBARI geologist Charlie Paull.

Now, with improved technology available for underwater imaging, Paull and his colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey have brought some of these hidden faults into view for the first time. The resulting data could help coastal residents better prepare for seismic threats.

Read more: Underwater robots help discover hidden faults — phys.org.

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