Public Release: 

Nepal earthquake special session offered on Nov. 2 at geology conference in Baltimore

Annual Geological Society of America meeting features National Science Foundation-supported earthquake research

Geological Society of America

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IMAGE: USGS map of earthquake and aftershocks. view more

Credit: USGS

Boulder, CO, USA - The Himalayas: These forbidding peaks in South Asia, which reach more than 29,000 feet and include Mount Everest, mark one of Earth's youngest mountain ranges. They also signal the location of an active seismic region, which the people of Nepal experienced first-hand on 25 April 2015.

On that day, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake claimed 8,800 human lives, injured more than 23,000 people, and left hundreds of thousands homeless and entire villages flattened.

What led to the quake, also known as the Gorkha quake, and when and where is Nepal's next one likely to occur? How can people recover more quickly from future earthquakes?

To answer these and other questions, the Geological Society of America (GSA) will hold a special session on the Nepal quake at its 2015 annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The session will take place in the Baltimore Convention Center, Room 346/347, on Monday, November 2, 2015, from 8 a.m. to noon.

View oral session schedule and abstracts: https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2015AM/webprogram/Session38331.html

View poster session schedule and abstracts: https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2015AM/webprogram/Session38332.html

Forum for earthquake forecasting

The goals of the GSA special session are to provide a forum for scientists studying the quake, and to develop paths forward for earthquake forecasting in the Himalayan region to minimize the impacts of large-scale quakes.

Many of the speakers are funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) RAPID--or rapid response--grants. RAPID awards are given for research that requires urgent access to data, facilities or specialized equipment, such as obtaining seismic measurements following a major quake.

"We were all shocked by the devastation caused by the Nepal earthquake," says Roger Wakimoto, NSF Assistant Director for Geosciences. "The NSF RAPID awards provide an opportunity to increase our fundamental understanding of earthquakes. The knowledge gained by the research conducted through these awards may ultimately improve society's resilience to natural disasters."

Understanding the causes

For Nepal, it all comes down to plate tectonics. The collision of the Indian plate with the Asian plate makes the region seismically active, which leads to earthquakes like the one in April.

To peer into Earth's inner workings beneath the Himalayas, scientists are conducting research on subjects such as landslides caused by the earthquake--from immediate hazards to tectonic drivers; the aftershock seismicity that followed the quake; and the fault geometry and time-dependent stress changes that are an integral part of how quakes such as Nepal's occur.

For example, Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana and Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado, Boulder, both authors of paper 105-6, being presented in the GSA special session, are measuring post-seismic displacements. Their work involves installing arrays of GPS units along the 21-mile expanse between Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, and the country's southern border to gain new insights into the region's tectonics.

Media are invited to attend and cover this and other science at the meeting.

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The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with more than 27,000 members from academia, government, and industry in more than 100 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth science education.

Contacts: Christa Stratton, Geological Society of America
303-357-1093, cstratton@geosociety.org
Cheryl Dybas, National Science Foundation
703-292-7734, cdybas@nsf.gov

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