Scientists believe that a tear in the Earth’s crust could lead to catastrophic natural disasters including earthquakes and tsunamis. The “tear” lies on one of Earth’s biggest faults and runs directly through the Ring of Fire- an area notorious for volcanic eruptions and massive earthquakes.
Of course, the word tear could be an understatement, as the size of it is roughly 60,000 square miles in area, and 7 kilometers deep. Researchers are calling it the Banda Detachment.
If earthquakes did occur around the tear, it could lead to a slip, which in turn would cause violent tremors on the islands that surround the area.
Unfortunately, the tear is in the planet’s most seismically-active area, as the Ring of Fire is the home of up to 90 percent of the planet’s natural disasters. Included in the area is New Zealand and it stretches to the top of Australia, going past Indonesia and Japan, and extends down the West Coast of the U.S and to the bottom of South America.
Lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Pownall from the Australian National University said that the finding will aid researchers in analyzing the dangers of future disasters in the area.
While he says that they have known of the abyss for around 90 years, “no one has been able to explain how it got so deep.”
According to Dr. Pownall, the Banda Detachment represents a rip in the ocean floor that exposed of 60,000 square kilometers. “The discovery will help explain how one of the Earth’s deepest sea areas became so deep,” he said. Another researcher on the project, Professor Gordon Lister, who also works at the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences said that this would be the first time that researchers have documented the fault.
‘We had made a good argument for the existence of this fault we named the Banda Detachment based on the bathymetry data and on knowledge of the regional geology,’ said Professor Lister.
It wasn’t until Pownall was on a boat journey in eastern Indonesia in July when he first noticed land-forms that would be consistent with prominent extensions of the fault line.
According to the researchers on this project, this discovery will aid in future assessment for tsunamis and earthquakes that have not yet occurred. “In a region of extreme tsunami risk, knowledge of major faults such as the Banda Detachment, which could make big earthquakes when they slip, is fundamental to being able to properly assess tectonic hazards,” Pownall said. An Australian National University report on the detachment didn’t provide evidence of recent earthquakes that had taken place, however, researchers do not want to rule that out.