The risks of Sumatra-style mega-quakes around the world have been sorely misjudged, say earth scientists who are re-examining some of the pre-December 2004 assumptions scientists made about such rare events.
For more than two decades geologists had thought that the largest quakes, of magnitude 9 and greater, happen when a young tectonic plate is subducted, or shoved quickly, under another plate. But the Great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of 26 December 2004 didn’t match that pattern at all. The Indian Plate is middle-aged and moving at a middling rate, which throws into question the estimated quake dangers at other similar quake-prone zones near Japan, in the Pacific Northwest, Chile, Alaska, and elsewhere.
"We didn’t expect such a big earthquake in that location," said Emile Okal of Northwestern University. Okal is slated to speak about how the Sumatra-Andaman quake calls into question theoretical assumptions made about other similar dangers zones worldwide and especially in South America on Thursday, 6 April, at Backbone of the Americas - Patagonia to Alaska. The meeting is co-convened by the Geological Society of America and Asociación Geológica Argentina, with collaboration of the Sociedad Geológica de Chile. The meeting takes place 3-7 April in Mendoza, Argentina.
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