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Larger earthquake could hit Nepal in future

14 Aug 2015

A paper recently published in Nature Geoscience, co-authored by EOS' seismologist Wei Shengji, found that the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in April that hit Gorkha, Nepal, could’ve prepped the area for another major earthquake.

How so? The friction from two colliding faults stop the rock from moving, but when the strain becomes too great, an earthquake results. Experts have already known that the plates in Nepal are gradually moving—less than an inch per year. Yet this constant movement isn’t enough to release the tension accumulated over centuries. 

According to the paper’s main author, Jean-Philippe Avouac, the April quake didn’t come as a surprise. GPS measurements along the site of the quake, south of the Main Himalayan Thrust (MHT) fault, showed that it was stuck fast beneath the Himalayas; it was a matter of time before an earthquake happened.

In an interview with The New York Times, Avouac said that the April earthquake was a small event, and that stress remains in the western part of the fault, which has been locked for slightly over five centuries. The last large earthquake that happened there occurred in 1505, and was likely to have exceeded a magnitude of 8.5. In WIRED, Avouac said that it was lucky that the April quake headed east instead of west. But this means that the next quake that hits westward may very well be the Big One.

Click to read the WIRED and The New York Times articles.

View the abstract here.