Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Western Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami hazard potential greater than previously thought

14.05.2013
Earthquakes similar in magnitude to the 2004 Sumatra earthquake could occur in an area beneath the Arabian Sea at the Makran subduction zone, according to recent research published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The research was carried out by scientists from the University of Southampton based at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS), and the Pacific Geoscience Centre, Natural Resources Canada.


The location of the Makran subduction zone of Pakistan and Iran and locations of recorded earthquakes including the 1945 magnitude 8.1 earthquake (red dot to the north indicates the 1947 magnitude 7.3 earthquake). The profile for the thermal modelling of this study is the N-S trending black line, with distance given along the profile from the shallowest part of the subduction zone in the south (0 kilometers) to the most northern potential earthquake rupture extent (350 kilometers).

Credit: University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science


This shows the primary tectonic plates and plate boundaries in the Arabian Sea region and the geographic context.

Credit: University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science

The study suggests that the risk from undersea earthquakes and associated tsunami in this area of the Western Indian Ocean – which could threaten the coastlines of Pakistan, Iran, Oman, India and potentially further afield – has been previously underestimated. The results highlight the need for further investigation of pre-historic earthquakes and should be fed into hazard assessment and planning for the region.

Subduction zones are areas where two of the Earth's tectonic plates collide and one is pushed beneath the other. When an earthquake occurs here, the seabed moves horizontally and vertically as the pressure is released, displacing large volumes of water that can result in a tsunami.

The Makran subduction zone has shown little earthquake activity since a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in 1945 and magnitude 7.3 in 1947. Because of its relatively low seismicity and limited recorded historic earthquakes it has often been considered incapable of generating major earthquakes.

Plate boundary faults at subduction zones are expected to be prone to rupture generating earthquakes at temperatures of between 150 and 450 °C. The scientists used this relationship to map out the area of the potential fault rupture zone beneath the Makran by calculating the temperatures where the plates meet. Larger fault rupture zones result in larger magnitude earthquakes.

"Thermal modelling suggests that the potential earthquake rupture zone extends a long way northward, to a width of up to 350 kilometres which is unusually wide relative to most other subduction zones," says Gemma Smith, lead author and PhD student at University of Southampton School of Ocean and Earth Science, which is based at NOCS.

The team also found that the thickness of the sediment on the subducting plate could be a contributing factor to the magnitude of an earthquake and tsunami there.

"If the sediments between the plates are too weak then they might not be strong enough to allow the strain between the two plates to build up," says Smith. "But here we see much thicker sediments than usual, which means the deeper sediments will be more compressed and warmer. The heat and pressure make the sediments stronger. This results in the shallowest part of the subduction zone fault being potentially capable of slipping during an earthquake.

"These combined factors mean the Makran subduction zone is potentially capable of producing major earthquakes, up to magnitude 8.7-9.2. Past assumptions may have significantly underestimated the earthquake and tsunami hazard in this region."

Notes for editors

1. Reference: Smith, G.L., McNeill, L.C., Wang, K., He, J., and Henstock, T.J., 2013, Thermal structure and megathrust seismogenic potential of the Makran subduction zone: Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, doi:10.1002/grl.50374.

2. Gemma Smith is a PhD student at the Graduate School of the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (GSNOCS).

3. Image 1 shows the location of the Makran subduction zone of Pakistan and Iran and locations of recorded earthquakes including the 1945 magnitude 8.1 earthquake (red dot to the north indicates the 1947 magnitude 7.3 earthquake). The profile for the thermal modelling of this study is the north-south trending black line, with distance given along the profile from the shallowest part of the subduction zone in the south (0 kilometres) to the most northern potential earthquake rupture extent (350 kilometres).

4. Image 2 shows the primary tectonic plates and plate boundaries in the Arabian Sea region and the geographic context.

5. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.

http://www.southampton.ac.uk

6. The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is the UK's leading institution for integrated coastal and deep ocean research. NOC operates the Royal Research Ships James Cook and Discovery and develops technology for coastal and deep ocean research. Working with its partners NOC provides long-term marine science capability including: sustained ocean observing, mapping and surveying, data management and scientific advice.

NOC operates at two sites, Southampton and Liverpool, with the headquarters based in Southampton. The centre is wholly owned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

http://www.noc.ac.uk

Contact details

Catherine Beswick, Communications and Public Engagement, National Oceanography Centre, catherine.beswick@noc.ac.uk, +44 238 059 8490

Catherine Beswick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.noc.ac.uk
http://www.southampton.ac.uk

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Arctic melt ponds form when meltwater clogs ice pores
24.01.2017 | University of Utah

nachricht New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>