It might sound like a bad movie title, but it’s a real phenomenon. Professor and seismologist at Florida State University, Wenyuan Fan, alongside a group of researchers, recently uncovered details of an event that is being referred to as a stormquake. The discovery was published earlier this week in science journal Geophysical Research Letters.
It sounds scary but there’s no need to fret
Fan explained that sometimes hurricanes generate massive waves on the surface of the ocean, which forms other kinds of waves beneath the surface which can make their way to the ocean floor. The battering of the waves causes a certain type of pressure force that acts as a large hammer crashing into the floor of the sea. This is often detected by seismometers but disregarded as nothing more than seismic noise. However, Fan realized that this activity is actually like a mini-quake that typically measures around a 3.5 on the Richter scale.
These tremors are rarely felt by humans going about their daily lives, so it’s not really something for the general public to worry about.
“I always like to reemphasize that stormquakes happen because of storms, so when extreme storms happen, I think that’s our first concern,” said Fan.
This discovery is still of interest though. As Fan explains, all events in nature are interconnected, therefore the stormquakes might impact aspects of nature that haven’t yet been discovered.
Over 14,000 stormquakes were identified by Fan and his group of researchers from 2006 to 2015 – more than a thousand every year.
Not every hurricane produces stormquakes though. For instance, Hurricane Sandy was intense on land, but failed to create any stormquakes. Hurricane Bill, although substantially less potent, managed to make roughly 300 stormquakes. A hurricane is more likely to produce stormquakes when its track aligns with specific sections of the ocean floor.