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Can Tornadoes trigger Eathquakes?

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posted on May, 20 2013 @ 10:03 AM
I am in eastern Oklahoma and followed the tornadoes that ripped across the central portion of the state very closely last night. I literally had the live stream form KFOR, the local scanner, as well as the National Weather Channel on watching everything unfold. I am originally from the Oklahoma City area, and all of my family still lives in that area of the state so anytime there is a tornado out there, I watch and I pray. (The tornadoes out in Edmond clipped one of my family members homes, but all are ok!)

The ones that hit last night were quite large compared to most of the ones we see and reminded me of the May 3rd tornado that hit the Moore/Norman area in 1999 where I worked search and rescue. That one left an amazing amount of damage in it's wake and the one yesterday in Shawnee left a very similar damage path. You can see pics of it in this thread: More Tornado Madness

So this morning I get up to check and see what they ended up classifying the Shawnee tornado as (I am guessing an EF4 - EF5), no word on that yet. So then I go check on earthquakes around the world and see that there was a mag 2.9 that hit the Luther area shortly after a large tornado went directly through that part of the state.

USGS-M2.9 - 11km ENE of Luther, Oklahoma

Now I have lived in OK all my life and I have never heard of a tornado causing or even registering as an earthquake, but I figured why not look into it. I have definitely never noticed any correlation in the two in the past, but then again, I only recently have been paying attention to earthquakes. I don't claim to be any authority or expert on either of the two, but just wanted to present what I found to the ATS community to see what some of you more experienced folks thought about the possibility of a tornado causing an earthquake.

I did a an online search and found someone else asking the same question about storms in general.... Can storms trigger earthquakes? They got two separate answers one said yes, one said no. Webanswers

It's possible. According to a study in Nature (June 2009), typhoons in the South Pacific Ocean sparked small earthquakes along the fault between the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate. However, the study pointed out that the storms did not cause the earthquakes, but only accelerated their timing - the earthquakes would have happened anyway.
There was also a University of Miami study (December 2010) which linked the Haiti earthquake of January 2010 to the strong tropical storms in the region in 2008. This is a new scientific theory which could be wrong, but there's definitely evidence that some storms can cause earthquakes.

I can not see the direct correlation between a storm and an earthquake...
Earthquakes are caused by a move in the tectonic plates (huge plates that form part of the Earth's crust). These are always on the move, and when they have moved enough against one another, there is a huge outleash of kinetic energy (a bit like an elastic band breaking) and one plate moves above the other causing massive vibrations which creates the earthquake.

This all happens at ground level, and the level of the forces are massive (far more than a storm, even though on ground level, the forces might seem immense). Relatively speaking it would be like trying to repel a massive body of water by trying to blow on it....

I am sure that there is a connection however between storms and earthquakes, but would never say that a storm created an earthquake

That second answer is a bit confusing, he says that he sees no direct correlation, but is sure there is a connection.

I looked up the article from Nature about the Typhoons triggering earthquakes in Taiwan. In it, geophysicists have been looking more into the phenomenon.

Now, scientists in the United States and Taiwan have examined slow earthquake events in eastern Taiwan that occurred between 2002 and 2007. They found that 11 out of 20 slow quakes coincided with typhoons — tropical cyclones that originate in the northwest Pacific Ocean. During typhoons, the atmospheric pressure on land is reduced, and at least in the case of eastern Taiwan, this pressure change seems to be enough to unclamp a fault that is under strain and to cause a fault failure.

Although the Cascadia region is not affected by typhoons, it does experience extensive low-pressure atmospheric systems that could produce small stress changes within the crust. These might be similar to those occurring in eastern Taiwan, says Herb Dragert, a geophysicist with the Geological Survey of Canada in Sidney, British Columbia, who was not involved in the study. To date, no one has investigated whether atmospheric pressure changes could be triggering ETS events, says Dragert. But the similarity between this latest study and previous ones, he notes, is that "very small stress changes can initiate this kind of slow slip and slow earthquake phenomenon".

Typhoons Triggering Gentler Quakes

So that's all I have for the moment. I haven't been able to find much else which might point to the fact that it is a ridiculous theory, or it may be due to that fact that it is just starting to be recognized. Has anyone noticed a correlation between tornadoes/storms and earthquakes? Could these atmospheric changes be what is triggering small quakes in Oklahoma? Could the lack of severe weather mean a larger quake for Oklahoma?

2011 saw the largest drought in Oklahoma since 1921, worse than the Dust Bowl of the 30's.

In most years, the dark clouds over western Oklahoma in the spring would be bringing rain. This year, they're more likely to be smoke from wildfires that have burned thousands of acres in the past month as the state and its farmers struggle with a severe drought.
Huffington Post

That was in April. In November, Oklahoma experienced a 5.6 -the worst quake ever recorded in Oklahoma history.

Oklahomans more accustomed to tornadoes than earthquakes suffered through a weekend of temblors that cracked buildings, buckled a highway and rattled nerves. One jolting quake late Saturday was the state's strongest ever and shook a college football stadium 50 miles away while another of lesser intensity struck before dawn Sunday
5.6-mag Oklahoma Quake

So could the lack of severe weather in the area that year have caused the buildup to a much larger quake? If what the scientist were saying in the above study is correct, then the severe weather we normally experience might be causing the release of smaller quakes and preventing a larger one from hitting like it did in 2011.

Has anyone else noticed this before or is this merely a coincidence?


posted on May, 20 2013 @ 10:19 AM
If a truck ( if heavy enough) can shake an intersection when passing by a Tornado can cause a quake.Still the question is....Can a tornado cause a earthquake to happen afterwards?....i say yes

edit on 7/30/2012 by dreamfox1 because: info

posted on May, 20 2013 @ 10:36 AM
I don't think the two have any remote connection. It's basic science at work here and it's two radically different natural forces that have no way to interact. Get 50 feet below the surface and an EF-4 could go over might hear a dull roar. Nothing more. Get 100 feet down and you won't even know anything happened above.

Now most quakes are kilometers below the surface for stress points which give way. Some, many many kilometers down. Nothing like 50-100 feet and nowhere near the point of surface activity directly connecting to subsurface quake activity. It's just two totally different worlds and sides of nature, IMO.

(Unless we want to explore the Butterfly Effect in more detail...but it's too early in the morning for me, on that one

posted on May, 20 2013 @ 10:48 AM
reply to post by dreamfox1

Thanks for that illustration! It really puts into perspective what a huge force could accomplish if a truck can cause small ground movements.


posted on May, 20 2013 @ 10:56 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Thanks Wrabbit. I keep going back and forth about whether it is possible or not. I just don't know enough about the subject to be sold completely one way or the other. I am looking into contacting one of our meteorologists and seeing what they have to say on the subject. I find the idea pretty intriguing, but more than likely not possible. I will post back if/when I hear from them for those who are interested.


posted on May, 20 2013 @ 10:58 AM
This is something I haven't really considered before.

However, I don't think it's really the force of the wind that could trigger an earthquake, but instead maybe the weight of all the rainwater/hail being dropped on the ground in a short period of time.

A typical fair-weather cloud holds about 1 million pounds of water.
edit on 20-5-2013 by Junkheap because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 20 2013 @ 11:10 AM
reply to post by OkieDokie
I wouldn't think that an earthquake would be directly caused by a tornado as a tornado is a surface phenomena while an earthquake is caused by shifting beneath the surface of the earth- either by tectonic plate movement or by the insidious process of injecting substances into the earth. I do think that if a tornado were to "shake up" pipe that goes deep into the crust (gas or oil drilling or the resulting "fracking" done by some operations) that it could possibly cause some movement but it would be very little movement if any. To sum it up I wouldn't say it isn't possible just that it would be extremely unlikely.

posted on May, 20 2013 @ 11:46 AM
I have sent an email to the meteorologists at News 4 in Oklahoma City, as well as one to the Oklahoma Geological Survey. It will be interesting to see what each has to say on the matter from each of their areas of knowledge.

There have been some great points made on both sides of the debate here on ATS. Thanks so much to those who have replied. I had no idea that clouds held so much water. And the idea of pipes affecting ground movement was something I would have never thought about. Such great minds here on ATS, you are the reason I love this site so much!


posted on May, 20 2013 @ 06:14 PM
I started looking for articles a couple of years back that covered weather/atmospheric conditions and earthquakes.

Here is one that I had bookmarked that has some good info: Could weather trigger earthquakes or landslides?

Another that specifically talks about waters effect on the crust: How Rainfall Variation Can Trigger Earthquakes

And another that focuses on typhoons which seems to be the most studied events in regards to earthquakes and weather: Link Between Earthquakes and Tropical Cyclones: New Study May Help Scientists Identify Regions at High Risk for Earthquakes

Those last two links are from Science Daily which is an excellent resource since on the article page they share links to related stories.

I think there very well could be a connection between the foul weather and the most recent OK quake but it good to note that the area where the quake occurred is prone to minor quakes.

IMO, the quakes are "frack quakes" related to the injection wells that are located nearby and the storm might have hastened a quake that was going to occur anyways.

posted on May, 20 2013 @ 07:14 PM
nothing showing up on the USGS after today's Moore tornado as of now, but it would be interesting to monitor the seismic activity today to see if any correlations could be made.

posted on May, 24 2013 @ 12:45 PM
For those who are interested... I got a reply back from the Oklahoma Geological Survey ...

It is possible and likely that atmospheric pressure changes can trigger earthquakes. It is possible the 2.9 was triggered by the lowered atmospheric pressure. It is also possible the two are just coincidences. It takes more than a 6,000 magnitude three earthquakes to alleviate the forces that would cause a magnitude 5.6 so it is really hard to reduce the likelihood of a large earthquake with smaller ones. However, it is possible the drought itself by reducing the amount of ground water could have triggered the 5.6. The tornado track Sunday went past five stations and left a strong signal on these instruments of both wind noise and atmospheric pressure changes. Austin Holland
Research Seismologist

Pretty cool if you ask me! I wonder what those signals looked like. I haven't heard back from the meteorologist, but that is understandable considering the terribly bad timing of my inquiry.


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