Unusual geophysics may have spared Iran far greater damage


April 16, 2013 

Unusual geophysics may have spared Iran far greater damage

Rowena Lohman, a geophysicist in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, is an expert on earthquake physics. She comments on today’s fatal magnitude 7.8 earthquake near the Iran-Pakistan border, noting that some unusual geophysics may have prevented much greater damage and casualties.

Lohman says:

“Today’s earthquake in southeastern Iran was large but fairly deep, which reduces the expected level of damage relative to a shallower earthquake of the same magnitude.

“The earthquake occurred in a region where two tectonic plates are converging toward  each other, with one (Saudi Arabia) subducting beneath the other (Europe/Asia). Interestingly, while this is an environment of compression, the earthquake was of the sort that you see when plates move away from each other, in extension. This may be due to a variety of causes, including stretching of the subducting plate during its descent into the mantle.”

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