Earth Permanently Deformed After Earthquakes in Chile, Shows Study

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A new study by geologists at Cornell University has shown that earthquakes can leave the Earth deformed.

Cornell geologist Richard Allmendinger told LiveScience that strong earthquakes in Chile have left permanent cracks in the surface of the Earth. The findings "perplexed" Allmendinger and his colleagues, as the Earth is known to "rebound" after earthquakes - an effect that is chronicled using satellite technology. Deformation, such as cracks, in the Earth's surface is generally thought to be temporary, with geological processes erasing them in "days or weeks." From the LiveScience report:

"It is only in a place like the Atacama Desert that these cracks can be observed - in all other places, surface processes erase them within days or weeks of their formation, but in the Atacama, they are preserved for millions of years," Allmendinger said." We have every reason to believe that our results would be applicable to other areas, but is simply not preserved for study the way that it is in the Atacama Desert."

The researchers were able to study thousands of years worth of earthquakes in the dry rock of the Atacama desert in Northern Chile. Allmendinger told LiveScience that this new research could change current models of the way upper-plate deformation due to earthquakes is recovered. He also stated that another large earthquake (over magnitude 7) could allow geologists to test these new hypotheses.

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