Future risk of major Nepal-India earthquake: Scientists

Written by | August 7, 2015 | 0

Los Angeles: Western Nepal and northern India face an increased risk of a future major earthquake, warn scientists who have found that the devastating 7.8 quake that struck Nepal in April released only a fraction of the energy “locked” in the underlying fault.

Using data from the GPS stations, an accelerometer that measures ground motion in Kathmandu, data from seismological stations around the world, and radar images collected by orbiting satellites, an international team of scientists has pieced together the first complete account of what physically happened during the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck near Gorkha, Nepal on April 25, killing nearly 9,000 people.

“This is a place that needs attention, and if we had an earthquake today, it would be a disaster because of the density of population not just in western Nepal but also in northern India, in the Gangetic plain,” Professor Jean-Philippe Avouac, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC News.

The researchers show that the earthquake occurred on the Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT), the main megathrust fault along which northern India is pushing beneath Eurasia at a rate of about two centimetres per year, driving the Himalayas upward.

Based on GPS measurements, scientists know that a large portion of this fault is “locked.”

Large earthquakes typically release stress on such locked faults – as the lower tectonic plate (here, the Indian plate) pulls the upper plate (here, the Eurasian plate) downward, strain builds in these locked sections until the upper plate breaks free, releasing strain and producing an earthquake.

The researchers believe that some of this stress has shifted west, to an area stretching from the west of Pokhara in Nepal to the north of Delhi, the report said.

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