The Himalayas Played A Major Role In The 2004 Tsunami, Here Is How

First Posted: May 30, 2017 06:01 AM EDT

The Himalayan sediments may have inadvertently played a role in aggravating the severity of the Sumatra earthquake that occurred in 2004. Subsequently, the massive earthquake caused the catastrophic tsunami of 2004 that claimed over 250,000 lives in the coastal regions of India and other countries.

According to The Tribune, a study found that the erosion of the Himalayan and Tibetan Plateau sediment over millions of years made its way thousands of kilometers away in the Indian Ocean -- transported by rivers. Over the course of time, the sediment became thick enough to generate warm temperatures that further strengthened it.

Subsequently, the sediment increased the severity of the Sumatra earthquake that took place on Dec. 26, 2004, measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale.The strong earthquake caused an even more powerful tsunami that ravaged the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean, making the dual event one of the deadliest natural calamities in history.

"The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was triggered by an unusually strong earthquake with an extensive rupture area," researcher Lisa McNeill said, as reported by DD News. "We wanted to find out what caused such a large earthquake and tsunami, and what it might mean for other regions with similar geological properties."

To conduct the study, the research team examined the rocks and sediment from the tectonic plate that feeds the Sumatra subduction. The scientists drilled down 1.5 kilometers (0.93 mile) below the seabed from an oceanographic ship to measure the various properties of the sediments. They also ran simulations to make an estimate of how the rock and sediment behave as it pile up and travel 250 kilometers (155 miles) eastward toward the subduction zone. On the basis of the research, the team found dehydration and chemical changes, which clearly indicated that temperature increase from the thick accumulation of sediments caused minerals to dehydrate.

According to the research team, the discovery will now garner new interest in other subduction zone sites that also have thick, hot rock and sediment, particularly in areas where the potential for hazard is unknown. The same mechanism could be in place off the coast of Pakistan and Iran and in the Caribbean as well as Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Pacific Northwest coast of North America.

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