08 October 2009

The Big One -- Just Around the Corner?

News that the scientists (from the Bandung Institute of Technology and Singapore's Earth Observatory) have now done their analyzing and have determined that the recent earthquakes in West Sumatra, Indonesia, were not the "big one" that many of them are predicting to occur. Estimates of when the fateful day range over the next ten years. It would seem that predicting big earthquakes is not always an exact science. However, like anything else practice makes perfect, so presumably with more data, the guesstimates can become more accurate.

The scientists are predicting that the big one is likely to be off a magnitude of 8.8+ on the Richter Scale. Nevertheless, this depends on whether the earth sees fit to release all this energy that continues to build up over time in one big burst or a couple of smaller bursts of energy. The scientists, it seems, are leaning towards a big one. The reason being that the most recent earthquakes have not released enough of the pressure forcing the Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates together.

Now, an earthquake of a magnitude of 8.8+ is likely to unleash a wave of destruction in the form of a tsunami. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Aceh and other places in the region in 2004 was of a magnitude 9.1. With the predicted earthquake's centre expected to be just off the coast of West Sumatra, and somewhere between Padang and Bengkulu, then the damage and death counts are likely to be high.

My wife and I have family in that part of Sumatra, and it is always a worry when we hear of earthquakes in the region. So, to think that the big one might be just around the corner is not good news.

(Graphic courtesy of here)


anong said...

This sort of Nostradaming is ridiculous. What real options do people have if the big one is months or even years away. Its like saying that its only a matter of time before you die in a car accident because accident deaths are now rising - or something like that.

To be honest I am already mentally prepared for the whole of Sumatra to disappear. I mean some things are possible and calcuable - but not gempa, storms maybe.

Rob Baiton said...


I do not know whether it is ridiculous or not. I am sure I read somewhere that the ability to predict earthquakes is getting better.

Options? Not a lot.

Well, sort of like the possibility of dying in a car accident. But, the post is not really about comparing possibilities, is it?

Really, the whole of Sumatra?

H. Nizam said...

That's really frightening.
But, if we've got to go, we've got to go, right?

Rob Baiton said...


It is a concern, but the time frame of somewhere between now and ten years into the future seemingly does not make this prediction game an exact science.

Besides the idea about where it will be is also somewhat imprecise, between Padang and Bengkulu. Exactly where would probably have some bearing on how at risk one is.

Yep, if your number's up, your number's up!