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Japan quake could set off others

Seismology experts fear that this month’s huge earthquake in Japan could trigger other major seismic events due to a phenomenon called seismic coupling.

The huge magnitude 9.0 earthquake on 11 March was preceded by a sizeable 7.3 quake on 8 March, originally thought to have been the main shock but now considered a foreshock.

Experts believe that this is further proof of “seismic coupling”.

“It’s a technical term to describe active interaction of fault movements or stress/slips between two or more tectonic plates,” explained Bristol University lecturer in civil engineering and seismic specialist Katsu Goda.

This has prompted fears of another large earthquake in the vicinity of the ruptured fault.

This is because the large earthquake could affect stress conditions on nearby faults which could result in a movement of a huge fault plane.

The British Geological Survey said that a 9.0 magnitude earthquake would be expected once every 10 years globally, but this could now be reassessed.

“[Understanding] the stress release and how exactly it affects other plates and how long it will take are extremely complicated”

Ziggy Lubkowski, Arup

Japan sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire where 75% of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions take place.
It is thought that last week’s foreshock, and the huge quake in Chile last year could be part of the same series of events.

He added this was previously seen in the 1960s with the biggest ever earthquake recorded in Chile, followed by other major quakes such as in Alaska in 1964.

Similar theories have been proposed along the North Anatolian Fault, which runs along the northern edge of Turkey.

Arup seismic specialist Ziggy Lubkowski said that scientists have proposed this theory and predict that the next big earthquake is due in Istanbul.

However, he added that while recent major seismic events have provided further evidence, “there’s still a lot to understand.”

“[Understanding] the stress release and how exactly it affects other plates and how long it will take are extremely complicated.”.

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