Understanding the M 8.6 massive Indian Ocean / Sumatra earthquake

Last update: April 18, 2012 at 10:00 pm by By

Read also our extensive in-depth report with numerous testimonies about this massive earthquake

The April 11, 2012, M8.6 and M8.2 earthquakes off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, occurred as a result of strike-slip faulting within the oceanic lithosphere of the Indo-Australia plate. The quakes were located respectively 100 km and 200 km to the southwest of the major subduction zone that defines the plate boundary between the India/Australia and Sunda plates offshore Sumatra. At this location, the India/Australia plates move north-northeast with respect to the Sunda plate at a velocity of approximately 52 mm/yr.

Focal Mechanism of the Mw8.6 earthquake

Large strike-slip earthquakes are not unprecedented in the diffuse boundary region separating the India and Australia plates, southwest of the Sumatra subduction zone. Since the massive M 9.1 earthquake that ruptured a 1300 km long segment of the Sumatran mega-thrust plate boundary in December of 2004, three earlier large strike-slip events had occurred within 50 km of the first large April 11, 2012 event. These earthquakes occurred on April 19 2006 (Mw6.2), October 4 2007 (Mw6.2) and January 10, 2012 (Mw7.2).

The focal-mechanisms of the three earlier earthquakes and the two great earthquakes of April 11, 2012, are consistent in implying that each earthquake could have occurred as the result of left-lateral slip on a north-northeast striking fault or right-lateral slip on a west-northwest striking fault. The two different orientations of strike-slip faulting are both possible under the same tectonic stress field; perpendicular strike-slip faults that are both compatible with the same stress field are called “conjugate faults”.
Possibly faults of both orientation have been involved in the recent earthquake activity.

Image which we made on January 10 after a similar Mw7.2 earthquake occurred in the same area

In which countries was the earthquake felt ?
Felt in much of Sumatra, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanki. Also felt in many countries as far out as Male, Maldives to the west,  Dacca, Bangladesh; Calcutta, India; Rangoon, Myanmar; Bangkok, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to the north.
Thirty one cm.  (peak-to-trough) tsunami at Meulaboh.

I Have Felt It map courtesy USGS

Text and some images : courtesy USGS

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