Characterization of Potential Tsunamigenic Earthquake Source Zones in the Indian Ocean

  • N. Purnachandra Rao


The uniqueness of the Indian tectonic plate is manifested in the diverse nature of deformation along its plate margins. The magnificent Himalayan mountain belt to the north represents a continent-continent collision. To the east, a complex, oblique subduction takes place along the Burma and Andaman arc regions that continues further down south, to the Sumatra and Java trenches. A nascent diffuse deformation zone in the northeastern Indian Ocean further south, that formed during the last 7 Ma (Gordon et al., 1990), marks the southern plate margin separating the Indian plate from the Australian plate. A spreading ridge with respect to the African plate to the south-west and a strike-slip environment with respect to the Arabian plate to the west are the other plate boundaries (Fig. 1). The Indian plate has made a remarkably long journey in the geological time scale, with the initial break up from the Gondwanaland about 125 million years ago. Initially the Indian plate moved very rapidly north, at about 10 cm/y until about 53 Ma, when it made the initial contact with Asia. With the closure of the Neo-Tethys Sea during the Late Cretaceous to Early Tertiary period, the scenario changed to that of a continent-continent collision with a reduced rate of about 5 cm/y. The gigantic Himalayan mountain range formed from the scraped off Indian crust and is the site of some of the world’s largest and most devastating earthquakes.


Indian Ocean Indian Plate Great Earthquake Tsunami Hazard Sumatra Earthquake 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. Purnachandra Rao
    • 1
  1. 1.National Geophysical Research InstituteHyderabadIndia

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