Scientists have new explanation for mysterious sand peaks

In a study published last month in Nature Communications , Dr Buchner and colleagues proposed a recipe for the formation of sand points. ...


In a study published last month in Nature Communications, Dr Buchner and colleagues proposed a recipe for the formation of sand points. The ingredients needed, the researchers suggest, include a strong earthquake, loose sand, water, and calcite, which works like a glue.

The process begins when the fastest seismic waves, or primary waves, pass through the sand and compress it, the researchers suggest. This sends most, but not all, of the moisture it contains to the surface, Dr Buchner said. “The sediments are basically dry but there are still a few pockets of water.”

A few seconds later, slower seismic waves, called secondary waves, propagate again in the sand. These waves trigger dramatic increases in pressure, causing the remaining water reservoirs to heat up rapidly and then vaporize explosively. Each explosion carves out a hollow structure that pushes a tail pointing away from the source of pressure. The surrounding sand quickly returns to the void and calcite, the main mineral in limestone, cements the structure.

Spikes of sand likely form within seconds, the researchers suggest. It’s different from most other geological structures, said Franek Hasiuk, a geologist with the Kansas Geological Survey who was not involved in the research. “Many of our rocks take at least millions to tens of millions of years to form. It happens in the blink of an eye.

Besides Germany and California, sand spikes have only been spotted in a few other places. Considering their relative rarity, particularly powerful shakes must be needed to train them, suggest Dr Buchner and his colleagues.

Because sand spikes are markers of intense and potentially destructive earthquakes, they are valuable indicators of dangerous conditions, Dr Hasiuk said. It would be a bad idea to build a school or a nuclear power plant where sand points were found, he said.

“Understanding ancient seismicity can really help us plan our infrastructure smarter. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Scientists have new explanation for mysterious sand peaks
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