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Taking the pulse of slow earthquakes


 Japan’s Nankai Trough is home to some of the world’s biggest earthquakes, but researchers are now seeing another type of earthquake in the trough that is not well understood: slow earthquakes. Only discovered in the last few decades, slow earthquakes are evidence that earthquakes come in many forms, from normal earthquakes releasing energy over seconds or minutes to slow earthquakes unfolding over days to weeks. Penn State researcher Demian Saffer has been at the forefront of devising ways to monitor these slow earthquakes in regions far offshore and helping to lead international teams on missions to collect new data about their geologic context.

Saffer, a professor of geosciences at Penn State, recently completed his third stint as a co-chief scientist on board an International Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) expedition to install new monitoring devices in the Nankai Trough. Located in the Ring of Fire, the trough extends for 500 miles just offshore of Japan and has been the source of magnitude 8–class earthquakes every one to two centuries.  More

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