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earth·quake (ûrthkwk)

A sudden movement of the earth's crust caused by the release of stress accumulated along geologic faults or by volcanic activity. Also called seism, temblor. (www.dictionary.com)

Of interest in the Terracycles theory are earthquakes caused in part by the daily Pacific Ocean tides1.  Each day, the Moon creates a massive wave of water that travels across the Pacific Plate from east to west.  This is significant as the Pacific Plate is nearly entirely submerged by the Pacific Ocean.  As the ocean level rises due to glacial melting, the force of the tides on the Pacific Plate gradually increases.  The increased force of the tides causes a gradual increase in earthquake activity along the plate boundaries, which in turn causes an increase in earthquake activity along secondary faults. Likewise, as the polar regions accumulate ice, less mass become available for daily tides and earthquake activity correspondingly decrease. Within human lifetimes, these values are negligible, but when major shifts in water displacement occur, such as in the sudden advance of ice at the poles, these observations must be much more striking.

If we were going to make a model of primary global earthquake activity, we would start with the South Pacific Islands, where the Earth appears to be weakest, and tides appear to be strongest.  There is also a strong tidal surge in the Northeast Pacific Ocean from Japan to Russia.  As the South Pacific Plate is pushed down, the adjacent land to the north is also pushed down.  The forward pushing force of this plate movement long ago caused what was probably a single Asian/Indian plate to split, thus causing the fault leading through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea.  Quite often major quakes in Turkey and the South Pacific indicate a cycle of quakes which migrate from the South Pacific Islands north to Taiwan, Japan, and Kamchatka, east to the Gulf of Alaska and south along the coast of the Americas.

A bathymetric map of the ocean floor clearly shows the Pacific Plate being submerged beneath the Asian continent.  From Kamchatka to Hawaii there is a weak spot in the Pacific Plate that has spawned the Emperor Seamount Chain of submerged volcanoes and Hawaiian Islands.  

Further east there is the 2500+ mile long Mendocino Fracture that starts in Mendocino County California.  From the lower tip of Baja California there is Clarion Fracture Zone in the Pacific Plate about 3000+ miles long and parallel to the Mendocino Fracture.  The chunk of Pacific Plate formed by the Mendocino Fracture, the San Andreas Fault, and Clarion Fracture appears to be breaking loose from the greater Pacific Plate.  Undoubtedly, when the San Andreas Fault lets loose, it will be due to a movement in this large chunk as it seeks independence from the greater Pacific Plate.

Earlier in the history of the Earth a process of plate fracturing broke the Nazca Plate loose from the Pacific Plate.  Today the Nazca Plate continually drifts in the opposite direction from the greater Pacific Plate.  The ridge between them continually fills with magma from within the Earth causing a conveyor belt effect.

From the primary plate movements listed above, many secondary movements occur.  The submerging of the Pacific Plate is causing a spreading of the Mid Atlantic Ridge.  Where tectonic plates slide past each other, friction causes thousands of secondary faults.  Pressures between plates thrust up mountains.

So from the basic tidal energy of the Sun and Moon across the vast Pacific Ocean we have a great seismic engine.  The more water that is freed from the Earth's Poles, the more active this seismic engine becomes.  As the primary source of earthquakes, the submergence of the Pacific Plate causes a chain reaction of stress buildup and release across the planet.  And in our particular time, this seismic engine is gaining speed.

1. see the June 15, 2000 NASA article entitled Ocean Tides Lost and Found