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IODP partner announces urgent study in Sumatra


The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) announced that it will conduct an urgent study of the large-scale earthquake which occurred off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia on December 26, 2004. The study will be the first to observe the actual epicenter of the earthquake that devastated coastal regions in Asian countries along the Indian Ocean coastline.

JAMSTEC is a partner in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, an international marine research program that advances scientific understanding of the Earth by monitoring and sampling sub seafloor environments. IODP scientists investigate the deep biosphere, environmental change, and solid earth cycles via multiple drilling platforms. The program’s lead agencies are the U.S. National Science Foundation and Japan’s Ministry of Culture, Education, Sports, Science, and Technology.

The proposed JAMSTEC study rests on the premise that the historic earthquake and tsunami have prevented the local sea area from returning to normal, due to aftershocks. The study, starting sometime between February and March will observe the seafloor area of the earthquake epicenter.

JAMSTEC will use the marine research vessel "Natsushima" and a robot craft to place an ocean-bottom seismograph to the epicenter’s south side. The agency will study submarine topographic changes and aftershock distribution by direct observation, and will create a bathymetric chart. At the same time, the study will specify the fault position and illustrate the characteristics of movement, including displacement magnitude about possible submarine topographic changes (i.e. earthquake faults and folds).

This study, the first to observe the actual epicenter after the earthquake, is expected to lead to greater understanding of the mechanism of earthquake occurrence. Through this study, JAMSTEC is looking at the possibility of predicting another tsunami, which may still be caused by aftershocks. There is also hope of understanding the possibility of ocean trench destruction on the south side of the earthquake center, where no aftershock is occurring now.

Nancy Light | EurekAlert!
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