In DepthSeismic Risk

New jitters over megaquakes in Himalayas

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 933-934
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6225.933

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Seismologists worried about the prospect of a massive earthquake in the shadow of the Himalayas, where it could devastate cities such as Kathmandu and Delhi, have long cast a wary glance at an eerily calm region called the central seismic gap. A massive earthquake in southwestern Tibet in 1505 C.E., researchers proposed a decade ago, relieved enough strain to quiet that stretch of the restive Himalayas. But new findings now suggest that the 1505 temblor was smaller than thought and was just one of a cluster of potent quakes to rattle the region within a few centuries. If so, the recurrence of major quakes in the Himalayas, unlike in many other seismic hot spots, follows no discernible pattern of strain relief—meaning that authorities must gird for a megaearthquake anywhere at any time.

  • * in Bangalore, India

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