For years we have been asking; How many fault lines exist on Earth?
Scientists who study the Earth’s geological history have repeatedly produced charts and maps purporting to show where fault lines are or were. For most of us it’s easy to see why they would produce such intricate and detailed pictures if there were fault lines in the Earth’s crust. We recognize that if there are any fault lines, then rivers and streams must flow through them, since they form underwater mountains. It’s easy to understand.
But a new theory by a team of California-based scientists raises a question about the validity of this long-standing map of fault lines. The latest theory is that not all fault lines are created equal. While most fault lines are horizontal, some are slanted, and some are vertically. A third type of faulting may even exist “up and down,” meaning that the faults could be clearly be located in different places. Even above and below the surface of the Earth.
This raises the question: just where are the fault lines?
For years scientists have relied on maps of fault lines produced by radar or satellites to answer this question. The latest theory posits that there are in fact no fault line maps. Instead, there are what are called geo-fault lines, which are simply high-water ridges. These ridges are common in large rivers and can help to explain where some faults might be located. But these elevations of water levels may also be caused by mountain ranges, air compression, and other geological factors.
If the above theory is correct, it does pose another intriguing question. How come we don’t see more satellite maps of fault lines up and down? The answer lies with the way that satellite maps are constructed and their accuracy. They are often designed and executed using relatively low-resolution instruments, so they are not very useful for finding out the truth about fault lines.
Because of this, most researchers rely on computer models to simulate the movement of tectonic plates and longitude zones, applying them to fault line networks as a means of determining the location of faults. These models are a great way of testing out various theories before the results are made available to the general public, but because they are run on extremely complicated satellite maps they can be a little too accurate for our purposes.
In other words, satellite maps of faults might give us hints of their existence, but we don’t know for sure until more precise instruments are available.
Another issue with existing fault line maps comes from the difficulty of tracking them. Fault lines move slowly and are difficult to pinpoint on a map of the Earth. What you see on a topographical map of the United States may be slightly different in Europe. Scientists and cartographers have to adopt a more radical approach in order to answer the question of how many fault lines exist around the world.
This radical approach involves injecting ultra-high-resolution magnetic particles into faults in the hopes of identifying the fault’s source. After which, more high-resolution images will be taken and the position of each fault line will be determined. This is a time consuming and expensive method that has already yielded accurate results several times. By injecting magnets into faults, scientists hope to identify the exact location of the fault in minutes instead of hours or days. Once this source has been pinpointed, it is a simple matter to piece together the rest of the fault line puzzle.
With this new technology, scientists will not have to guess at the answers to how many fault lines exist around the world. They will be able to quickly and easily determine their location and find out what caused them to move. This will help improve our understanding of tectonic shifts and help us design better structures for the future. Once scientists have fully explored and implemented these methods of fault detection, we will see a decrease in the number of new faults that are created due to stress or collision.
With this information at hand, the next time you are driving along and notice a cluster of mountains in the distance, you will know without a doubt that it is the work of some geologists.
Provided by Antonio Westley
Disclaimer: This article is meant to be seen as an overview of this subject and not a reflection of viewpoints or opinions as nothing is definitive. So, make sure to do your research and feel free to use this information at your own discretion.