Water And Oceanography

Sunda Trench Predicting Earthquakes



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The Sunda Trench is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire” of earthquake activity. Located in the Indian Ocean, the Sunda Trench has successfully given researchers some clues to earthquake predictions and may be able to help predict the next big earthquake.

Basic information is helpful to learning about the Sunda Trench

The Sunda Trench is approximately 5 miles deep into the Indian Ocean and is still sometimes referred to as the Java Trench. It is the smaller of the two trenches in the Indian Ocean, with Diamantia Trench being the largest. The Sunda Trench is part of the Ring of Fire known for a hotbed of earthquake activity. Yet, it is the Sunda Trench which may be able to help in predicting the next big earthquakes, which may result in benefit to residents and cause fewer loss of lives and potentially less damage than previous earthquakes in the area.

Recent earthquakes along or near Sunda Trench

In March 2005, The New Scientist announced in “Asia primed for next big quake,” that Indonesia and Germany had signed an agreement to begin installing an early warning system in the Indian Ocean. The early warning system would help predict tsunamis in advance and would hopefully result in earlier and better preparation for peoples of the affected areas, not only for tsunamis, but for the earthquakes which often precede tsunamis.

A devastating earthquake in December, 2004 occurred at night just off the coast of Sumatra. The deaths from the earthquake, combined with the tsunami which followed resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. John McCloskey, from the University of Ulster, UK led a study which measured stresses along plate boundaries in the Indian Ocean and Sumatra. He said that “big earthquakes make other big earthquakes more likely.”

The study conducted by McCloskey’s Team found that there was a possibility of an earthquake caused by the Sunda Trench, and that an earthquake along the Sunda Trench was overdue. It was feared that a quake along the Sunda trench could result in another tsunami.

McCloskey’s fears came true when on March 5, 2005, less than 3 months after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Sumatra, an 8.7 earthquake “ruptured the Sunda mega thrust…”” The University of Ulster had just published information 11 days earlier regarding the increased stress and potential risk of a large earthquake along the Sunda Trench.

McCloskey’s Team collaborated with a team from the California Institute of Technology led by Professor Kerry Sieh, to integrate information, calculations and historical earthquake records related to the Sunda Trench. Further study led to McCloskey’s team as well as other teams researching earthquakes to fear large earthquakes in the same region in the near future, but all teams stopped short of predicting the exact timing of future earthquakes.

Sunda Trench reveals more devastating secrets

The Sunda trench has continued revealing itself as deserving as a member of the earthquake “Ring of Fire” region. A recent discovery added even more news which may cause new fears in those living near the Sunda trench. In 2009, The Jakarta Post announced the discovery of a “huge” underwater volcano that was previously unknown, in “Giant undersea volcano found in Sunda Trench.” The volcano was described as being larger than every mountain in Indonesia, except for one. Teams of scientists from several organizations discovered the volcano off the coast of Bengkulu, under the Sunda Trench, west of Sumatra. A spokesperson did not reveal whether he thought the volcano had any chance of erupting in the near future.

Sunda Trench: predicting the unpredictable

McCloskey and other researchers and their teams have accurately predicted several large earthquakes in areas near Sunda Trench. Although there have been efforts to develop strategies to be able to scientifically predict earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis well in advance, scientific methods developed to date may prove less accurate than words spoken by John McCloskey himself, as quoted earlier; “Big earthquakes make other big earthquakes more likely.”

As research of the potential earthquake activity of Sunda Trench and other earthquake areas in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” continues, if researchers take heed to McCloskey’s words, and focus specifically on stresses along Sunda Trench after an earthquake anywhere nearby, perhaps future earthquakes which have the potential to result in severe devastation and horrific loss of life can be more accurately predicted, giving people time to prepare and evacuate, if necessary. Such early detection and then preparation has the potential of saving hundreds of thousands of human lives. Perhaps one day, we truly will be able to predict the unpredictable along Sunda Trench and other areas of the Ring of Fire.

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More about this author: Donna Hicks

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7157-asia-primed-for-next-big-quake.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://news.ulster.ac.uk/releases/2005/1685.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/05/28/giant-undersea-volcano-found-sunda-trench.html