NTU Leads Expedition To Assess Tsunami Risks

The month-long expedition to map the sea floor off Sumatra will provide open source data for the prediction of tsunami risks.

AsianScientist (May 28, 2015) – Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists at its Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) will be leading an international team to Sumatra, Indonesia to investigate tsunami risks and impact. The month-long expedition aims to assess the risk of tsunamis caused by earthquakes in the region by mapping the ocean floor where the tectonic plates meet each other.

The research project is done in partnership with the Schmidt Ocean Institute on board its research vessel Falkor and is jointly led by NTU’s EOS, France’s Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

The international scientific team consists of more than ten scientists from all three research institutes, in addition to the crew on board the Falkor.

Officially known as The Mentawai Gap-Tsunami Earthquake Risk Assessment (MEGA-TERA) expedition, it will target the region west of Siberut Island, near the city of Padang, identified as the Mentawai Gap. This is the only area of the geologically active Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone that has yet to have a large earthquake in the last 200 years.

Renowned NTU geologist and seismologist, Professor Kerry Sieh, who is the director of EOS, said this international expedition will yield many important insights into the study of undersea earthquakes and their ability to cause tsunamis.

“The Asian region is a hotbed of tectonic activity and over the last few years, we have seen many natural disasters arising from earthquakes and tsunamis, such as those in Aceh in 2004, Chile in 2010 and Tohoku Japan in 2011,” said Sieh.

“With greater knowledge of how tsunamis are caused, our scientists would be able to build enhanced simulation models which allow us to better prepare for such events which will happen not just in Asia, but other parts of the world.”

Professor Satish Singh, a visiting professor at EOS and a theoretical seismologist from IPGP in France, will be co-leading this voyage.

“In our previous paper published in Geophysical Research Letters on the 2010 Pagai earthquake, just after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami happened in Japan, we proposed a theory on how undersea earthquakes can cause tsunamis,” said Singh.

“We know from past events that small earthquakes can cause large tsunamis while large earthquakes could result in a small or no tsunami. This depends on several factors such as the depth of the seabed and whether the earthquake comes to the front, breaking ground and thus displacing sea water.”

He adds that the expedition will allow a greater studying of the seabed using new technologies.

“Over the next 30 to 40 days, we will use advanced deep-sea mapping technologies to study the seafloor subduction zone at depths of 5,000 meters or more, which is not very well studied and understood in this region.”

Echoing this view, Dr. Haryadi Permana, director of Research Center for Geotechnology from LIPI, added that the research reveal knowledge about plate movements and prevent a disaster like the previous tsunamis.

“With better knowledge on tectonic behavior, we can prepare better to reduce risk from mega-earthquakes. We do not want a horrific disaster like in Aceh to happen again in Padang or other towns that we have identified in risk of mega-earthquake and tsunamis,” said Permana.

In the Padang area alone, there are over 500,000 people residing less than five meters above sea level and there are over seven million people living along the central and southern coasts of Sumatra and the Mentawai Islands.

All information and data obtained from this expedition, such as the high-resolution maps of the ocean seabed, will be shared publicly with other scientists and research organisations.


Source: Nanyang Technological University.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist