Northwestern University seismologists have determined that the Dec. 26 Sumatra earthquake that set off a deadly tsunami throughout the Indian Ocean was three times larger than originally thought, making it the second largest earthquake ever instrumentally recorded and explaining why the tsunami was so destructive.
By analyzing seismograms from the earthquake, Seth Stein and Emile Okal, both professors of geological sciences in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, calculated that the earthquake’s magnitude measured 9.3, not 9.0, and thus was three times larger. These results have implications for why Sri Lanka suffered such a great impact and also indicate that the chances of similar large tsumanis occurring in the same area are reduced.
"The rupture zone was much larger than previously thought," said Stein. "The initial calculations that it was a 9.0 earthquake did not take into account what we call slow slip, where the fault, delineated by aftershocks, shifted more slowly. The additional energy released by slow slip along the 1,200-kilometer long fault played a key role in generating the devastating tsunami."
Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
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