Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Man standing on a road damaged by an earthquake

The 2011 Tohoku earthquake, which was centred at a fault in the Pacific Ocean, killed more than 18,000 people in Japan. Credit: Hitoshi Yamada/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Geophysics

Gentle ‘slow slip’ earthquakes belie hidden danger

Fluid build-up after a slow quake raises the risk of massive rupture.

Seemingly mild slow-motion earthquakes can raise the risk of more dangerous quakes by shifting fluids along geological faults.

‘Slow-slip’ quakes release their energy over weeks or months, rather than seconds. Many such quakes occur at subduction zones, where one plate of Earth’s crust dives beneath another.

Junichi Nakajima at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Naoki Uchida at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, analysed earthquakes off the Pacific coast of Japan, a subduction region prone to both slow-slip quakes and sudden big ones such as the devastating Tohoku quake of 2011. The scientists found that several months after a slow-slip event, the number of shallow earthquakes temporarily increased.

The authors say that a slow earthquake can cause fluids such as water to migrate upward within Earth’s crust and trigger small quakes. If these fluids are unable to drain properly, this could raise the risk of a big quake.

More Research Highlights...

Plastic and other debris floats underwater in blue water

Plastic detritus from snacks and meals floats in the Red Sea. Marine sampling shows that food waste accounts for nearly 90% of plastic pollution at some locales. Credit: Andrey Nekrasov/Barcroft Media/Getty

Ocean sciences

Humanity’s fast-food habit is filling the ocean with plastic

Food bags, drink bottles and similar items account for the biggest share of plastic waste near the shore.
Conceptual artwork of a pair of entangled quantum particles.

An artist’s impression of ‘entangled’ particles, which share properties even at a distance. Entangled photons can be used to help secure a multi-party video meeting. Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library

Quantum information

Quantum keys dial up tamper-proof conference calls

A new experiment efficiently distributes the highly secure keys to four parties instead of the typical two.
Farmers harvest pineapples in a field.

Workers harvest pineapples in Lingao County, China. Less than one-third of the money spent on food eaten at home reaches farmers. Credit: Yuan Chen/VCG/Getty

Economics

Poor harvest: farmers earn a pitiful fraction of the money spent on food

The bulk of consumer food spending around the world ends up in the coffers of distributors, processors and other parties beyond the farm gate.
A woman wearing a protective face mask splashes her hands in a jet of water

A pedestrian seeks relief from searing temperatures in Spain, where a high proportion of heat-related deaths have been linked to climate change. Credit: SALAS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Climate change

More than one-third of heat deaths blamed on climate change

Warming resulting from human activities accounts for a high percentage of heat-related deaths, especially in southern Asia and South America.
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing

Search

Quick links