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Strong 8.0 Earthquake Causes Tsunami in South Pacific, Generates Data

First Posted: Feb 05, 2013 10:30 PM EST

A major earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter scale just happened in the night to February 6, with the epicenter quite shallow at a depth of 5.8km at Santa Cruz Islands, 347km east of Kira Kira in the Solomon Islands, according to the US Geological Survey.

The quake generated a tsunami with a wave amplitude of 0.91m according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, which issued a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis and Futuna.

"It may have been destructive along coasts near the earthquake epicenter and could also be a threat to more distance coasts. Authorities should take appropriate action in response to this possibility," the PTWC said.
People are currently advised to move to higher grounds as a precaution. The damages in Temotu are currenlty being assessed by the local Disaster Office.

(Photo : Nicholas Schmerr)
This diagram represents a cross-section of the Earth beneath the ocean, with the layers labeled on the right. It illustrates the paths of earthquake waves (white lines) from an earthquake source (white star) through the Earth to a seismometer location (blue triangle). Halfway through their journey, the waves can reflect off of the surface or a melt layer. The longer path goes all the way to the surface before the waves are reflected. A shorter path is possible if the waves get reflected off of a melt layer at the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (represented by the yellow-orange area beneath the hotspot). Waves taking this shorter path will arrive several tens of seconds before waves that miss the melt layer and have to travel to the surface.
The Solomon Islands form part of the Ring of Fire, a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific Ocean that is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It is for this reason that this region has the oldest tsunami warning system, with the PTWC established in 1949, following the 1946 Aleutian Island earthquake and a tsunami that resulted in 165 casualties on Hawaii and in Alaska. The system seems to work well, as the PTWC had the earthquake data immediately and also reported the height of the tsunami wave, with respective arrival times for all locations at risk - people on these islands are evacuating at the current time, causing traffic jams in urban areas. Generally, the data generated by the quake and tunami wave will help researchers to better calculate and forecast the size and effects of waves in the future.

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