Preventing Earthquakes

earthquake_depth

I have made a qualitative study on how a part of the earthquakes can be prevented using simple means. The proposed solutions have been selected by their technical feasibility and imaginary power, and not meant their environmental, economical and political feasibility.

Causes of earthquakes

Earthquakes release the elastic strains that have accumulated over time. They have the following causes (source):

  1. movement of the continental crustal plates
  2. magma movement in volcanoes
  3. build-up of large masses of water behind dams
  4. injection or extraction of fluids into the Earth’s crust
  5. removal of natural gas from subsurface deposits
  6. detonation of explosives

Of these, the first item causes the main earth quakes, so we focus on this. To stop these large quakes we simply have to stop the the movement of the continental crustal plats. So why are these moving? About a billion years ago, when the earth was still young, the earth rotated much faster than now, so a day took only 10 hours. This also caused the earth shape to be flattened at the poles and wide at the equator. Since then the rotation slowed down all the time due to friction within the tides, and the gravitational effects caused by tidal deformations of the earth’s body. (Other causes are galactic space dust, solar wind, space weather, geomagnetic storms, etc. see here; we leave these out of consideration). The slower rotation calls for a more sphere like shape of the earth. This slow continual change of the Earth’s interior has set up tremendous dynamic pressures and stress within the Earth’s crust as it endeavours to conform to the ever changing mantle upon which it floats. It is the imbalance between the angular momentum and gravity that cause the dynamic movements of the continental crustal plates as the crusts shifts and crunches to fit into the ever diminishing area of the mantle (see here). Lately an opposite effect has been observed: since 1997 the earth seems to become more oblate (flattened at the poles) (source) but this does not seem to be of major importance. So a way to prevent earthquakes is to speed up the earth’s rotation a little, and to stop the slow down process. We have to tweak the earth rotation speed.

Tweaking the earth rotation

There are several ways to tweak the earth rotation speed. An equatorial pipeline Build a pipeline around the equator, and have a fluid streaming in it. This would hardly be technically feasible, the more because the pipeline must be huge and the fluid speed must be very high. Jet engines to outer space Build one or more jet engines blowing matter out of the earth atmosphere. Technically this does not seem to be feasible. Matter closer to earth axis Bring matter from the earth surface closer to the rotation axis. This is technically well possible e.g. by flattening mountains, or moving material more to the most nearby earth pole Decreasing tidal friction Decrease the tidal friction so that the slowing down of the earth rotation will become less as well. To do so, we need to obstruct the tides on the seas. Tides originate in the southern oceans, the only place on Earth where a circumventing wave resulting from the tidal force of the Moon can travel with no restrictions from land barriers (source 1, source 2, source 3 in Dutch). The tidal wave sends part of its energy to the north when it reaches the Pacific, the Indian Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean.

The solution: stopping the tidal waves

We can obstruct the tides by blocking the sea passage around the South Pole. The best place to do that is in the see between Antarctica and South America. If we use material from the Andes Mountains to do that, we also bring matter closer to the earth axis, so there would be both an immediate effect and a long term effect of preventing earth quakes. It should be investigated whether this immediate effect would be so large that for the first thousands or millions of years, effective blocking of the sea would be unnecessary. But at least in the long run, blocking will become necessary. Further research could stipulate the amount of material needed to be dropped in the sea; the required destruction of part of the Andes mountains, the cost of the operation in terms of energy, human effort and money, the effect on the environment, and the quantitative effect on the movements on the continental crustal plates and earth quakes. To stop the tidal waves, the sea blockade does not need to be 100% complete: if the water is a few tens of meters deep, no tidal wave can pass effectively, and ship traffic would still be possible. Of course there are economic, environmental and political aspects that would make this solution undesirable, but those are not within the scope of this study.

Acknowledgement

Johan Gorter suggested bringing matter closer to the earth axis as a way to increase the earth rotation speed. Some fragments in the texts have been copied from the referenced sources.

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