A huge hole in the ocean floor near Australia could cause catastrophic earthquakes and tsunamis.
The tear in the Earth’s crust measures 60,000 square kilometres – about the size of Tasmania – and is located off the coast of Indonesia, new research has revealed.
It is called the Banda Detachment and it is the biggest fault on our planet. Geologists have now discovered the fault runs through an area in the Pacific Ocean of high volcanic activity, aptly named The Ring of Fire.
Geologists have been aware of the fault for 90 years but this new research, by analysing high resolution maps of the sea floor where the abyss occurs, has revealed its vast nature and the dangers it poses to the globe.
Jonathan Pownall, the study’s lead researcher from the Australian National University said:
Our research found that a 7 km-deep abyss beneath the Banda Sea off eastern Indonesia was formed by extension along what might be Earth’s largest-identified exposed fault plane.
Fears have been confirmed that if and when the Banda faults slip, they could cause a huge tremor, impacting the entire area encompassed by the Pacific Ring of Fire.
According to the United States Geological Survey, 90 per cent of the world’s tsunamis and 81 per cent of the world’s worst earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire.
In a region of extreme tsunami risk, knowledge of major faults such as the Banda Detachment, which could make big earthquakes when they slip, is fundamental to being able to properly assess tectonic hazards.
Just last month two high magnitude earthquakes struck on the Ring of Fire. On 14 November in Kaikoura, New Zealand, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit, killing two people.
— GeoNet (@geonet) December 12, 2016
On 22 November on the Japanese coast of Fukushima. Tsunami waves and fatalities followed not long after.
This month, 84,000 people were left homeless after an 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck western Indonesia. The earthquake killed more than 100 people.
Over 100 dead and more than 700 injured after an earthquake struck Indonesia. pic.twitter.com/44JMW9RD1s
— AJ+ (@ajplus) December 9, 2016
While the new developments regarding the Banda Detachment sound worrisome, they actually represent a breakthrough in tsunami predictions.
This will allow authorities to better prepare and protect citizens in areas prone to natural disaster.