Extreme weather events may set off quakes and recognizing those patterns may help us better forecast tremors.
Cyclones, hurricanes and monsoons add stresses that can interact with the timing of tectonic stresses triggering earthquakes.
Someday, scientists may be able to use weather patterns to help forecast the timing of impending earthquakes.
Monsoons, hurricanes and other extreme weather events may trigger earthquakes when faults are ready to rumble.
The new research presented this week at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco does not suggest that all earthquakes are caused by storms or that all storms cause quakes. But by identifying some of the many conditions that put stress on faults, the new work may help scientists better forecast future tremors.
Experts hope to develop more accurate ways to warn the public before massive devastation ensues.
"There's a holy grail for any geophysicist being able to one day predict earthquakes," said Thomas Ader, a graduate student in geophysics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "All we're doing now is trying to understand, after earthquakes happen, why they happened."
"If you push on a fault, how is it going to respond?" he added. "It's a question we don't understand clearly right now."
Ader works in Nepal's Himalaya Mountains, where the monsoon season often brings a meter (3.3 feet) or more of rain each summer. The weight of all that water bends the whole underground system of tectonic plates, Ader said, which scientists can measure through slight seasonal movements in the positioning of GPS stations around the country.
The bending however puts pressure on the plates that's in opposition to the tectonic stresses. If the plates are like pages in a bent book, sliding slightly past each other, the rains act to put that book back to normal, Ader said.
UPDATE Oct. 26, 2015
M5.1 - 20km N of Tres Palos, Mexico, 2015-10-25 14:47:54 (UTC)