Popular Science

Rain and snow help stress out earthquake faults

A little bit.
seasonal earthquake stress

The stresses during dry late summer months (left), when minimal water is stored near the surface, and during the early spring (right) when maximum water is stored.

Christopher Johnson, Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, UC Berkeley

Natural forces shape every inch of our globe, but in California, the two big players are water falling out of the sky (or the lack thereof) and earthquakes.

For a long time, many researchers figured that the two were unrelated. Earthquakes can mess with groundwater levels and aquifers, but not rain, and for the most part, it was assumed that rain and snow didn’t make enough of an impression on the Earth to really affect earthquakes either.

But a study published today in Science found a connection between seasonal precipitation and

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