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A new study examined the growth records of coral reefs off the coast of Sumatra, and say they show evidence of repeated bursts of earthquakes that relieve pressure on the Sunda fault. A shock in 2007 may be the beginning of a new cycle, researchers say.
Says study coauthor Kerry Sieh: “If previous cycles are a reliable guide we can expect one or more very large west Sumatran earthquakes … within the next two decades”
In the study, published in Science, researchers looked at the growth patterns of coral reefs in the region over the past 700 years. When a quake occurs the seafloor rises up, effectively lowering the sea level so that shallow coral reefs are now above the surface. The reefs can’t grow upward, but their still submerged portions grow outward. Researchers found evidence of this growth pattern about every 200 years, and say the changes to the coral reefs in the region weren’t caused by one single giant earthquake.
A new research has suggested that a devastating megathrust earthquake could occur at any time off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
But, the researchers found that the 2007 quakes ruptured only a fraction of the area affected by the giant 1833 earthquake, indicating that a tectonic plate boundary can rupture in different patterns depending on local differences in stress
The results suggested that the 2007 events released only a quarter of the energy that had accumulated since 1833, leaving enough pent-up energy to trigger another giant earthquake at any time.