BENEATH THE CERULEAN waters of Monterey Bay, only a couple of miles southeast of Santa Cruz, California, an at no other time seen bunch of flaws has been found prowling on the sea floor.
These newly spotted wrinkles in Earth’s crust, described in a paper published today in Science, are still largely a mystery. We can’t say much about their size, shape, or how active they are. Still, the findings show that even in one of the most seismically studied corners of the planet, fault maps of the ocean floor contain gaping holes.
That’s a big problem, because if we don’t know where seafloor faults are, coastal communities are going to be in the dark about any earthquake or tsunami threats they might present.
The new research also offers a solution to our tectonic blindspot: We can harness the hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber optic cables that send emails, Tweets, and video messages ping-ponging across Earth every day. Scientists discovered California’s newest known offshore faults by borrowing a garden hose-size fiber optic cable that spans the seafloor of Monterey Bay and turning it into an ad-hoc seismic array.