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Hurricanes set off seismographs

Readings may help with future intensity predictions

Seismograph data is helping to predict hurricane intensity in the future form correlations from past records.
Seismograph data is helping to predict hurricane intensity in the future form correlations from past records. (Ray Bouknight)

JACKSONVILLE. Fla – Hurricanes are so powerful that the waves churned in the oceans trigger instruments used to measure earthquakes. 

Seismographs record data of vibrations below the ground but also pick up unique fluctuations in the oceans caused by topical systems. These vibrations, are created by ocean waves that push down on the seafloor and generate vibrations that travel throughout the solid earth. 

Scientists have known about this process since the beginning of the 20th century but extracting useful information from the data has proven difficult. Now scientists at Columbia University discovered seismic signatures from tropical cyclones contain valuable data that might be used to better understand past and future hurricanes. 

While the information won't help predict where the storm will hit, it could improve forecasts for hurricanes in a changing climate.

Limited satellite measurements of hurricane intensity only date back to the 1960s and 70s, yet older seismic recordings can extend the historical record and improve climate models which are suggesting  global warming is increasing hurricane intensity.


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