A group of Indian scientists have completed the new study that indicates the likelihood of a mega Himalayan earthquake. This study backs previous warning issued by other scientists about an impending massive earthquake in the Himalayan belt.
The study, led by seismologist C.P. Rajendran of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bengaluru, suggests that the mega Himalayan earthquake could reach a magnitude of 8.5 on the Richter scale. The “enormous stacking up of strain in the region portends at least one earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more in one of the overlapping segments of the central Himalayas anytime in the future”, it says.
Mega Himalayan Earthquake: How The Study Evolved
The researchers conducted the study along the frontal thrust of the central Himalayas. They examined Mohana Khola in western Nepal and Chorgalia on the Indian border to determine the timing of the last faulting event on in this region. Reports suggest that the last such event occurred between the 14th and 15th century.
A massive earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or higher had occurred between 1315 and 1440, disturbing a stretch of the length of central seismic gap from Bhatpur to beyond Mohana Khola (about 600 km) in the central Himalayan region. Following this earthquake, the belt has been seismically quite for almost 600 to 700 years. This indicates there is a tremendous build up of strain in the region, increasing the likelihood of the mega Himalayan earthquake.
“Considering this potentially high seismic risk, this will be particularly catastrophic for a region marked by an ever-growing population and unhindered expansion of the built-up environment, to be contrasted with poor preparedness to meet this contingency,” Rajendran said.
The scientists followed the local geology and structural map published by the Geological Survey of India. They also used Google Earth and imagery from ISRO’s Cartosat-1 satellite to complete this study on the mega Himalayan earthquake. The study was published in Geological Journal.
US geophysicist Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado has also supported this study. Bilham has worked hard for year to lay the foundation of knowledge about earthquakes in the Himalayas. “My own evaluation of the available evidence suggests their estimate is conservative, and should the rupture zone extend from east of Almora to west of Pockara (Nepal) the earthquake will exceed 8.7,” he said.
The warning came just a day before back-to-back earthquakes measuring 7 and 5.7 triggered widespread panic and a tsunami warning in Alaska.