The Largest Exposed Fault On Earth Discovered, Runs Through The Deadly 'Ring Of Fire'

First Posted: Nov 30, 2016 03:40 AM EST

Scientists uncovered the largest exposed fault on Earth known as Banda Detachment fault in eastern Indonesia. This could also help scientists on understanding how a 7.2 km-deep (4.5-mile) abyss formed in the Pacific Ocean.

The discovery was described in the journal Geology. The biggest fault plane passes through the Ring of Fire, which is an area in the Pacific Ocean where about 90 percent of the world's earthquakes and 75 percent of all active volcanoes occur.

Dr. Jonathan Pownall from the Australian National University (ANU), the lead author of the study, said that the find will help scientists assess dangers of future tsunamis in the area, which is part of the Ring of Fire. He further said that the abyss has been known for 90 years but until now no one has been able to explain how it got so deep. He explained that their research found that a 7 km-deep abyss beneath the Banda Sea off eastern Indonesia was developed by extension along what might be Earth's largest-identified exposed fault plane.

The researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and Royal Holloway University of London examined the maps of the sea floor taken from the Banda Sea region in the Pacific Ocean. They found that the rocks reclining on the bottom of the sea were cut by hundreds of straight parallel scars. This indicates that a piece of crust bigger than Belgium or Tasmania might have been ripped apart by 120 km of extension along a low-angle crack or detachment fault to form a deep depression in the ocean floor, according to Phys.Org.

Once a fault formed in Earth's crust, it creates two main features, namely, the fault plane and the fault line. The fault plane is the flat surface of a fault. Meanwhile, the fault line is the intersection of a fault plane with the ground surface. Their simulations also suggest that the Banda Detachment fault plane was exposed over an area of 60,000 square kilometers (23,166 square miles) when the sea floor cracked.

Jonathan Pownall, a researcher from ANU, said that he was stunned to see the postulated fault plane, this time not on a computer screen but poking above the waves. He further said that the discovery will help explain how one of the Earth's deepest sea areas became so deep, according to Science Alert.

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