Skip top navigation and go to page content
National Science Foundation
Earth and Environment
next page Earth & Environmental Science Home
next page More Research Overviews
Photo, caption follows:

Drilling into the San Andreas Fault at Parkfield California.
Credit: Stephen H. Hickman, USGS

Title: How Can We Understand the Forces that Lead to Earthquakes and Volcanoes?
Geologic processes create the rich fabric of our landscape, from the ancient, eroded Appalachian Mountains to the younger, rugged Rockies and the volcanoes of the northwestern Cascade Mountains. But often it will take an earthquake rattling our communities or volcanic ash to darken the skies before we seriously contemplate the great Earth forces that affect the terrain we live on.

The NSF-funded EarthScope project is a bold undertaking to apply modern technologies to find out more about the North American continent and the processes that control earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Scientists hope to discover ways to mitigate the risks from geologic hazards, find out more about the dynamic Earth, and gain insight into the development of natural resources.

Modern digital seismic arrays will produce 3-dimensional images of North America's continental crust and the deeper mantle on which it "floats." Global positioning satellite receivers, strain meters and new satellite radar imagery will measure and map the smallest movements along fault lines and magma movement inside active volcanoes. An observatory deep within the San Andreas Fault will provide new measurements of one of the world's most active faults in a region where earthquakes often begin.

To learn more:

How can organisms live without sunlight? [Next]