Kumano Pluton could be a magnet for megaquakes • Earth.com

Kumano Pluton could be a magnet for megaquakes


Today’s Video of the Day from the National Science Foundation describes a big data study by experts at UT Austin that could revolutionize earthquake science. The research is focused on a massive rock called the Kumano Pluton, which is buried miles beneath the coast of southern Japan. 

Based on 20 years of seismic data processed through one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, the scientists have developed the first complete, 3D visualization of Kumano Pluton.

The results of the analysis suggest that the mountain-sized rock now may be acting like a “lightning rod” that channels energy into the megaquakes seen in the this region. 

While scientists have known about thy existence of Kumano Pluton for years, they were only aware of small sections of it. The UT Austin study provides a view of the entire rock formation. This will enable experts to study the pluton’s effect on regional tectonics. 

According to study co-author Shuichi Kodaira, director of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, the findings will provide critical information for a major new Japanese government-funded project to find out whether another major earthquake is building in the Nankai subduction zone, where the pluton is located.

“We cannot predict exactly when, where, or how large future earthquakes will be, but by combining our model with monitoring data, we can begin estimating near-future processes,” said Kodaira, who was among the scientists who first discovered the Kumano Pluton in 2006. “That will provide very important data for the Japanese public to prepare for the next big earthquake.”

“The fact that we can make such a large discovery in an area that is already well studied is, I think, eye opening to what might await at places that are less well monitored,” said study lead author Adrien Arnulf, a research assistant professor at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics.

Image/ Video Credit: National Science Foundation/ UT Austin 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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