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By Stephen Luntz

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Earthquake Danger Zones Identified

Most of the world’s largest earthquakes are concentrated where subduction zones and fracture zones intersect, marking a major step forward in predicting the locations of future disasters.

Earthquakes capable of causing major tsunamis occur where an oceanic plate is subducted under another plate, but some parts of the plate boundary are far more prone than others. While the historical record identifies some danger zones, the largest quakes can occur when pressure has built up over hundreds or thousands of years.

“The advantage of our new method is that it picks up many of the regions prone to recurring powerful earthquakes over long time periods, including some where no large earthquakes have occurred in the last 100 or so years. Our results could contribute to much-needed improvements of long-term seismic hazard maps,” says Prof Dietmar Müller of the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences.

Fracture zones extend from transform faults along mid-ocean ridges where the ridges have been offset. Müller first recognised the possibility of a link when the Tohoku-Oki earthquake occurred off Japan in 2011.

“I thought journalists might start calling me to ask what caused it so I started looking at maps of the area. The first thing I noticed was there was a huge fracture zone which had been well mapped by...

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