Researchers at the University of California at Los Angelesand the National Research Institute for Earth Science andDisaster Prevention in Japan have confirmed a link betweenstrong tides and earthquakes. Using satellite imagery andhistorical earthquake records, the researchers found thatlarge earthquakes along coastal faults were three times morelikely to occur during high tides.

The research team looked at all magnitude 5.5 or greaterearthquakes that occurred between 1977 and 2000 alongcoastlines featuring “thrust faults” — where one side ofthe fault is positioned below the other. 75 percent ofthese earthquakes happened when tidal forces were high.

Researchers caution that strong tidal forces should not betaken as a sign of an impending quake. Instead, strongtides are more likely to trigger a quake along a fault thatis already stressed. Conversely, strong tides could delayan earthquake from happening if the tidal force counteredother stress on the unstable fault.

The discovery moves geologists one step closer to being ableto accurately predict earthquakes.

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