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March 4, 2009

Global Map of Earthquakes

A global map of earthquake activity. The earthquakes occur at the boundaries between Earth's tectonic plates. The colors indicate the depth of the earthquakes, with red being the shallowest and green the deepest. [USGS earthquake catalogue from 2000 to 2008, magnitude of 5.0 M and above.]

More about this Image
Scientists at Caltech's Tectonics Observatory (TO) have been investigating the Sumatra region to shed light on what happened during the recent earthquakes and to improve our understanding of the seismic and tsunami hazard associated with such plate boundaries. New research results by TO scientists show how this region's massive earthquakes (magnitude greater than 8.0) are connected to the continual deformation of Earth's surface, which occurs even during calm times in between the massive quakes (these calm times are called interseismic periods). TO scientists combine field measurements of coral growth patterns, data from GPS stations and sophisticated computer models. These research results provide a new way to estimate locations and magnitudes of future giant quakes. It is a step toward estimating when the next big earthquake will occur in Sumatra and similar regions previously thought to be at low risk for large earthquakes, such as in China, Java, Japan and Peru. (Date of Image: November 2008)

Credit: Lisa Christiansen, Caltech Tectonics Observatory

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