Hurricane Irma Reaches Category 5, Registers on Seismic Instruments

Hurricane Irma, currently barreling through the Caribbean toward Florida as a strong Category 5 storm, is showing up on instruments used to measure earthquakes, Newsmax reports.

“What we’re seeing in the seismogram are low-pitched hums that gradually become stronger as the hurricane gets closer to the seismometer on the island of Guadeloupe,” the U.K.’s University of Southampton seismologist Stephen Hicks said in a statement for USA Today.

The hurricane is not causing earthquakes, Hicks said, but the high winds it produces, as well as the swaying of trees, transfer energy into the ground. Waves crashing against the shore also are a contributor.

Since the seismometer is near the ocean, that energy is picked up, Hicks said.

“Earthquakes occur 10s of (miles) deep inside Earth’s crust, a long way from the influence of weather events, and there is no evidence to suggest that hurricanes and storms directly cause earthquakes,” he added.

Strong storms often show up on seismic instruments.

“We saw this for Hurricane Harvey on seismometers located close to Houston,” Hicks said.

As Irma gets closer to the sensors, “we will see a dramatic increase in the amplitude of the seismic recordings,” he said.

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