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Bizarre 2012 earthquake signals birth of world's newest tectonic plate - CSMonitor.com

Turning a corner

Data captured by a global network of seismometers on April 11 revealed almost immediately that this quake was a strike-slip earthquake -- the sort that races along the San Andreas Fault. Strike-slip earthquakes occur when two sides of a fault jolt horizontally, displacing the ground sideways. Since these earthquakes don't shove the ocean floor upward -- a required move for tsunami generation -- no deadly wave appeared. [April 2012 Sumatra Quake (Infographic)]

Tsunamis are typically the devastating handiwork of quakes known as subduction earthquakes. They're the most powerful earthquakes on the planet, and they occur at plate boundaries, where one tectonic plate is grinding inexorably beneath another. When the bottom plate suddenly lurches deeper, a colossal amount of energy is released, unleashing the sorts of massive earthquakes and calamitous tsunamis that hit the Indian Ocean in 2004 and the coast of Japan in March 2011. [7 Craziest Ways Japan's Earthquake Affected Earth]

It quickly became apparent that the April 11 earthquake was the most powerful strike-slip quake ever recorded. Which was strange.

Not only was the quake of unparalleled power, it hit in the middle of a tectonic plate, not at a plate boundary, like the San Andreas Fault. "So already it has two unusual attributes," said Thorne Lay, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an author on one of the papers published today.

Lay and his team set out to construct a blow-by-blow account of how the earthquake progressed, and what they found added to the quake's mystique. This earthquake was able to turn corners.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Sep 28th, 2012 at 06:43:17 AM EST
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