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Makran subduction zone in Arabian Sea most prone to quakes, tsunamis: Study

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 13:03

Washington: The Arabian Sea at the Makran subduction zone is more prone to earthquakes and tsunami hazards than scientists had predicted earlier, a recent research has revealed.

The research by scientists from the University of Southampton and the Pacific Geoscience Centre, Canada proves that the Arabian Sea earthquake will be similar in magnitude as the 2004 Sumatra earthquake, the Eureka Alert reports.

According to the report, scientists had previously underestimated the potential risk of undersea earthquakes and associated tsunami near the Western Indian Ocean but the study shows that Pakistan, Iran, Oman and India`s coastlines are prone to even greater dangers.

The research has enhanced the growing need for further investigation of pre-historic earthquakes, which will in turn require hazard assessment and planning safety measures for the region.

Subduction zones refer to areas where tectonic plates collide, pushing one beneath the other. Earthquake in these areas result in horizontal and vertical movement of the seabed that causes large volumes of water to be displaced, leading to a tsunami.

While the Makran subduction zone has a record of low seismic activity in the past, (8.1m earthquake in 1945 and 7.3m in 1947) the area has often been considered incapable of generating major earthquakes.

The report said that the faults in the plate boundaries of the subduction zones make them likely to be prone to rupture, generating massive earthquakes at temperatures between 150 and 450 degree C. Scientists calculated that larger fault rupture zones result in larger magnitude earthquakes.

Lead author and PhD student at University of Southampton School of Ocean and Earth Science Gemma Smith said that through thermal modeling, it could be calculated that the potential earthquake rupture zone extends to a width of 350 kilometres which is unusually wide compared to most other subduction zones.

Researchers also found that the thickness of the sediment on the subducting plate too contributes to the magnitude of earthquake and tsunami in the region.

Smith discovered that the deeper sediments are more compressed and warmer, resulting in the shallowest part of the subduction zone fault being potentially capable of slipping during an earthquake, adding that these factors when combined increase the risk of producing major earthquakes in the Makran subduction zone, up to magnitude 8.7-9.2.


First Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 13:02
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