Seismic Snow

Beneath Noto’s soil –
tensions build
where pressures seethe,
a quickening pulse
in the quiet,
the clamour
of swarms
Seismic waves chart
maps of
trembling stress –
before the tide.
Season’s grip
squeezes broken layers,
every snowfall
pressing deeper –
a burden in white
suffocating silence,
pushing the ground
and urging release.
The touch of winter
a sudden shudder,
a quickening pulse
in the quiet,
the clamour
of swarms

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that heavy snowfall and rain may contribute to some earthquakes.

The Noto Peninsula in Japan is currently experiencing an unusual surge in earthquake activity, with events occurring at a rate ten times higher than the regional average. Understanding what causes these seismic swarms is challenging, as their underlying mechanisms are not yet clear. Over the past decade, there has been a concentrated effort to study the changes happening beneath the Earth’s surface, especially the shifts in the stresses that cause earthquakes.

This research has focused on observing how seismic waves travel through the Earth over an 11-year period to track changes in underground stress. Interestingly, the speed at which these waves travel increases over time but tends to drop just before a swarm of earthquakes occurs. This pattern is influenced by seasonal changes, suggesting an environmental impact on the underground pressures. A sophisticated three-dimensional model was used by researchers to explore how these pressures build up and how they’re affected by external factors like heavy snowfalls. It appears that these snowfalls significantly increase the stress on the Earth’s crust, which might trigger these swarms. The findings of this study are important because they help us understand the link between environmental changes and earthquake activity, potentially improving predictions and safety measures for regions prone to seismic activity.

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