Earthquake Report: M 6.9 Sumatra

While I was travelling back from a USGS Powell Center Workshop on the recurrence of earthquakes along the Cascadia subduction zone, there was an earthquake (gempa) offshore of Sumatra.

There was actually a foreshock (more than one):
I need to run to catch the sunset and will complete the intro later tonight.

OK, sunset led to nap, led to bed.

The plate boundary offshore of Sumatra, Indonesia, is a convergent (moving together) plate boundary. Here, the Australia plate subducts northwards beneath the Sunda plate (part of the Eurasia plate) along a megathrust subduction zone fault. This subduction forms a deep sea trench, the Sunda trench.

This was a shallow event near the trench formed by the subduction here. The magnitude was a little small for generating a large tsunami. However, it was shallow, so the deformation reached the sea floor and generated tsunami recorded on several tide gages in the region.

These gages are operated by the Indonesian Geospatial Reference System, though there are some gages that are posted on the European Union World Sea Levels website.

The water surface elevation data was a little noisy on these tide gage plots, but two of them had sufficient signal to justify my interpretation that these are tsunami. My interpretations could be incorrect and I include two plots below.

  • Here are the tide gage data. I label the locations for these two gage sites on the interpretive poster.

Many are familiar with the Boxing Day Earthquake and Tsunami from December 2004. This is one of the most deadly events in modern history, almost a quarter million people perished (mostly from the tsunami).

These lives lost did lead to changes in how tsunami risk is managed worldwide. So, these lives lost were not lost in vain (though it would be better if they were not lost, we can all agree to that).

The southern Sumatra subduction zone has an excellent record of prehistoric and historic earthquakes. For example, there is a couplet where earthquake slips overlapped slightly, the 1797 and 1833 earthquakes.

Many think that this area is the next place a large tsunamigenic earthquake may occur. Below we can see the analysis from Chlieh et al. (2008) where they suggest that there is considerable tectonic strain accumulated since these 1797 and 1833 earthquakes. There have been several large earthquakes in this area but they may not have released this strain.

If we look at the Chlieh et al. (2008) study, we will notice that this M 6.9 earthquake happened in an area thought to be in an area that is not accumulating much tectonic strain. I post a figure showing this later in the report.

There are millions of people who live in the coastal lowlands of Padang who may have difficulty evacuating in time should an earthquake like the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman subduction zone earthquake were to occur in this area.

For those that live along the coast here, the ground shaking from the earthquake is their natural notification to evacuate to high ground. For those that live across the ocean, they will get warning notifications to help them learn to evacuate since they won’t have the ground shaking as a warning. This is what happened to many people in December 2004 along the east coast of India and along the coast of Sri Lanka.

Below is my interpretive poster for this earthquake

  • I plot the seismicity from the past month, with diameter representing magnitude (see legend). I include earthquake epicenters from 1922-2022 with magnitudes M ≥ 6.5 in one version.
  • I plot the USGS fault plane solutions (moment tensors in blue and focal mechanisms in orange), possibly in addition to some relevant historic earthquakes.
  • A review of the basic base map variations and data that I use for the interpretive posters can be found on the Earthquake Reports page. I have improved these posters over time and some of this background information applies to the older posters.
  • Some basic fundamentals of earthquake geology and plate tectonics can be found on the Earthquake Plate Tectonic Fundamentals page.

    I include some inset figures. Some of the same figures are located in different places on the larger scale map below.

  • In the upper right corner is a map showing historic seismicity, fault lines, and the global strain rate map (red shows area of higher tectonic strain).
  • To the left of the strain map is a figure that shows historic earthquake rupture areas and a representation of how strongly the megathrust subduction fault is (Chlieh et al., 2008).
  • In the upper left corner are maps that show the seismic hazard and seismic risk for Indonesia. I spend more time explaining this below.
  • In the center top-left is a map that shows earthquake intensity using the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) Scale.
  • In the lower left center is a low angle oblique view of a cut away of the Earth along the subduction zone in Sumatra, Indonesia from EOS.
  • Above the oblique view is a plot of the tide gage from Cocos, Island.
  • In the right center is a great figure from Philobosian et al. (2014) that shows the slip patches from the subduction zone earthquakes in this region.
  • Here is the map with 3 month’s seismicity plotted.

Other Report Pages

Some Relevant Discussion and Figures

  • Here is my map. I include the references below in blockquote.

  • Sumatra core location and plate setting map with sedimentary and erosive systems figure. A. India-Australia plate subducts northeastwardly beneath the Sunda plate (part of Eurasia) at modern rates (GPS velocities are based on regional modeling of Bock et al, 2003 as plotted in Subarya et al., 2006). Historic earthquake ruptures (Bilham, 2005; Malik et al., 2011) are plotted in orange. 2004 earthquake and 2005 earthquake 5 meter slip contours are plotted in orange and green respectively (Chlieh et al., 2007, 2008). Bengal and Nicobar fans cover structures of the India-Australia plate in the northern part of the map. RR0705 cores are plotted as light blue. SRTM bathymetry and topography is in shaded relief and colored vs. depth/elevation (Smith and Sandwell, 1997). B. Schematic illustration of geomorphic elements of subduction zone trench and slope sedimentary settings. Submarine channels, submarine canyons, dune fields and sediment waves, abyssal plain, trench axis, plunge pool, apron fans, and apron fan channels are labeled here. Modified from Patton et al. (2013 a).

  • This is the main figure from Hayes et al. (2013) from the Seismicity of the Earth series. There is a map with the slab contours and seismicity both colored vs. depth. There are also some cross sections of seismicity plotted, with locations shown on the map.

  • Here is a great figure from Philobosian et al. (2014) that shows the slip patches from the subduction zone earthquakes in this region.

  • Map of Southeast Asia showing recent and selected historical ruptures of the Sunda megathrust. Black lines with sense of motion are major plate-bounding faults, and gray lines are seafloor fracture zones. Motions of Australian and Indian plates relative to Sunda plate are from the MORVEL-1 global model [DeMets et al., 2010]. The fore-arc sliver between the Sunda megathrust and the strike-slip Sumatran Fault becomes the Burma microplate farther north, but this long, thin strip of crust does not necessarily all behave as a rigid block. Sim = Simeulue, Ni = Nias, Bt = Batu Islands, and Eng = Enggano. Brown rectangle centered at 2°S, 99°E delineates the area of Figure 3, highlighting the Mentawai Islands. Figure adapted from Meltzner et al. [2012] with rupture areas and magnitudes from Briggs et al. [2006], Konca et al. [2008], Meltzner et al. [2010], Hill et al. [2012], and references therein.

  • This is a figure from Philobosian et al. (2012) that shows a larger scale view for the slip patches in this region. Note that today’s earthquake happened at the edge of the 7.9 earthquake slip patch.

  • Recent and ancient ruptures along the Mentawai section of the Sunda megathrust. Colored patches are surface projections of 1-m slip contours of the deep megathrust ruptures on 12–13 September 2007 (pink to red) and the shallow rupture on 25 October 2010 (green). Dashed rectangles indicate roughly the sections that ruptured in 1797 and 1833. Ancient ruptures are adapted from Natawidjaja et al. [2006] and recent ones come from Konca et al. [2008] and Hill et al. (submitted manuscript, 2012). Labeled points indicate coral study sites Sikici (SKC), Pasapuat (PSP), Simanganya (SMY), Pulau Pasir (PSR), and Bulasat (BLS).

  • Here are a series of figures from Chlieh et al. (2008 ) that show their data sources and their modeling results. I include their figure captions below in blockquote.
  • This figure shows the coupling model (on the left) and the source data for their inversions (on the right). Their source data are vertical deformation rates as measured along coral microattols. These are from data prior to the 2004 SASZ earthquake.

  • Distribution of coupling on the Sumatra megathrust derived from the formal inversion of the coral and of the GPS data (Tables 2, 3, and 4) prior to the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake (model I-a in Table 7). (a) Distribution of coupling on the megathrust. Fully coupled areas are red, and fully creeping areas are white. Three strongly coupled patches are revealed beneath Nias island, Siberut island, and Pagai island. The annual moment deficit rate corresponding to that model is 4.0 X 10^20 N m/a. (b) Observed (black vectors) and predicted (red vectors) horizontal velocities appear. Observed and predicted vertical displacements are shown by color-coded large and small circles, respectively. The Xr^2 of this model is 3.9 (Table 7).

  • This is a similar figure, but based upon observations between June 2005 and October 2006.

  • Distribution of coupling on the Sumatra megathrust derived from the formal inversion of the horizontal velocities and uplift rates derived from the CGPS measurements at the SuGAr stations (processed at SOPAC). To reduce the influence of postseismic deformation caused by the March 2005 Nias-Simeulue rupture, velocities were determined for the period between June 2005 and October 2006. (a) Distribution of coupling on the megathrust. Fully coupled areas are red and fully creeping areas are white. This model reveals strong coupling beneath the Mentawai Islands (Siberut, Sipora, and Pagai islands), offshore Padang city, and suggests that the megathrust south of Bengkulu city is creeping at the plate velocity. (b) Comparison of observed (green) and predicted (red) velocities. The Xr^2 associated to that model is 24.5 (Table 8).

  • This is a similar figure, but based on all the data.

  • Distribution of coupling on the Sumatra megathrust derived from the formal inversion of all the data (model J-a, Table 8). (a) Distribution of coupling on the megathrust. Fully coupled areas are red, and fully creeping areas are white. This model shows strong coupling beneath Nias island and beneath the Mentawai (Siberut, Sipora and Pagai) islands. The rate of accumulation of moment deficit is 4.5 X 10^20 N m/a. (b) Comparison of observed (black arrows for pre-2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and green arrows for post-2005 Nias earthquake) and predicted velocities (in red). Observed and predicted vertical displacements are shown by color-coded large and small circles (for the corals) and large and small diamonds (for the CGPS), respectively. The Xr^2 of this model is 12.8.

  • Here is the figure I included in the poster above.

  • Comparison of interseismic coupling along the megathrust with the rupture areas of the great 1797, 1833, and 2005 earthquakes. The southernmost rupture area of the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake lies north of our study area and is shown only for reference. Epicenters of the 2007 Mw 8.4 and Mw 7.9 earthquakes are also shown for reference. (a) Geometry of the locked fault zone corresponding to forward model F-f (Figure 6c). Below the Batu Islands, where coupling occurs in a narrow band, the largest earthquake for the past 260 years has been a Mw 7.7 in 1935 [Natawidjaja et al., 2004; Rivera et al., 2002]. The wide zones of coupling, beneath Nias, Siberut, and Pagai islands, coincide well with the source of great earthquakes (Mw > 8.5) in 2005 from Konca et al. [2007] and in 1797 and 1833 from Natawidjaja et al. [2006]. The narrow locked patch beneath the Batu islands lies above the subducting fossil Investigator Fracture Zone. (b) Distribution of interseismic coupling corresponding to inverse model J-a (Figure 10). The coincidence of the high coupling area (orange-red dots) with the region of high coseismic slip during the 2005 Nias-Simeulue earthquake suggests that strongly coupled patches during interseismic correspond to seismic asperities during megathrust ruptures. The source regions of the 1797 and 1833 ruptures also correlate well with patches that are highly coupled beneath Siberut, Sipora, and Pagai islands.

  • Here is the Chlieh et al. (2008) figure with the 18 November 2022 M 6.9 earthquake plotted as a blue star.
  • Note how the M 6.9 happened in a region of low seismogenic coupling. Beware that this is also in an area without any geodetic (GPS/GNSS) nor paleogeodetic (coral microattol) observations (the sources of data for the coupling model).

  • This figure shows the authors’ estimate for the moment deficit in this region of the subduction zone. This is an estimate of how much the plate convergence rate, that is estimated to accumulate as tectonic strain, will need to be released during subduction zone earthquakes.

  • Latitudinal distributions of seismic moment released by great historical earthquakes and of accumulated deficit of moment due to interseismic locking of the plate interface. Values represent integrals over half a degree of latitude. Accumulated interseismic deficits since 1797, 1833, and 1861 are based on (a) model F-f and (b) model J-a. Seismic moments for the 1797 and 1833 Mentawai earthquakes are estimated based on the work by Natawidjaja et al. [2006], the 2005 Nias-Simeulue earthquake is taken from Konca et al. [2007], and the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake is taken from Chlieh et al. [2007]. Postseismic moments released in the month that follows the 2004 earthquake and in the 11 months that follows the Nias-Simeulue 2005 earthquake are shown in red and green, respectively, based on the work by Chlieh et al. [2007] and Hsu et al. [2006].

  • For a review of the 2004 and 2005 Sumatra Andaman subduction zone (SASZ) earthquakes, please check out my Earthquake Report here. Below is the poster from that report. On that report page, I also include some information about the 2012 M 8.6 and M 8.2 Wharton Basin earthquakes.
    • I include some inset figures in the poster.
    • In the upper left corner, I include a map that shows the extent of historic earthquakes along the SASZ offshore of Sumatra. This map is a culmination of a variety of papers (summarized and presented in Patton et al., 2015).
    • In the upper right corner I include a figure that is presented by Chlieh et al. (2007). These figures show model results from several models. Each model is represented by a map showing the amount that the fault slipped in particular regions. I present this figure below.
    • In the lower right corner I present a figure from Prawirodirdjo et al. (2010). This figure shows the coseismic vertical and horizontal motions from the 2004 and 2005 earthquakes as measured at GPS sites.
    • In the lower left corner are the MMI intensity maps for the two SASZ earthquakes. Note these are at different map scales. I also include the MMI attenuation curves for these earthquakes below the maps. These plots show the reported MMI intensity data as they relate to two plots of modeled estimates (the orange and green lines). These green dots are from the USGS “Did You Feel It?” reports compared to the estimates of ground shaking from Ground Motion Prediction Equation (GMPE) estimates. GMPE are empirical relations between earthquakes and recorded seismologic observations from those earthquakes, largely controlled by distance to the fault, ray path (direction and material properties), and site effects (the local geology). When seismic waves propagate through sediment, the magnitude of the ground motions increases in comparison to when seismic waves propagate through bedrock. The orange line is a regression of data for the central and eastern US and the green line is a regression through data from the western US.

  • Here is a map from Jacob et a. (2014) that shows the structure of the eastern Indian Ocean. Figure text below.

  • Free-air gravity anomaly map derived from satellite altimetry [Sandwell and Smith, 2009] over the Wharton Basin area.

  • Here is the map from Jacobs et a. (2014). Figure text below.

  • Structure and age of the Wharton Basin deduced from free-air gravity anomaly [Sandwell and Smith, 2009; background colors] for the fracture zones (thin black longitudinal lines), and marine magnetic anomaly profiles (not shown) for the isochrons (thin black latitudinal lines). The plain colors represent the oceanic lithosphere created during normal geomagnetic polarity intervals (see legend for the ages of Chrons 20 to 34 according to the time scale of Gradstein et al. [2004]). Compartments separated by major fracture zones are labeled A to H. Grey areas: oceanic plateaus, thick black line: Sunda Trench subduction zone.

  • This is a fascinating figure from Jacob et al. (2014). This shows a reconstruction of the magntic anomalies for the oceanic crust as they are subducted beneath Eurasia.

  • Reconstitution of the subducted magnetic isochrons and fracture zones of the northern Wharton Basin using the finite rotation parameters deduced from our two- and three-plate reconstructions. (a) First the geometry is restored on the Earth surface, then (b) it is draped on the top of the subducting plate as derived from seismic tomography [Pesicek et al., 2010] shown by the thin dotted lines at intervals of 100 km (b). Colored dots: identified magnetic anomalies; colored triangles: rotated magnetic anomalies, solid lines; observed fracture zones and isochrons, dashed lines: uncertain or reconstructed fracture zones, dotted lines: reconstructed isochrons from rotated magnetic anomalies (two-plate and three-plate reconstructions), colored area: oceanic lithosphere created during normal geomagnetic polarity intervals (see legend for the ages; the colored areas without solid or dotted lines have been interpolated), grey areas: oceanic plateaus, thick line: Sunda Trench subduction zone.

  • Finally, these authors present what their reconstruction implicates about this plate boundary system.

  • The deviation of the Sunda Trench from a regular arc shape (dotted lines) off Sumatra is explained by the presence of the younger, hotter and therefore lighter lithosphere in compartments C–F, which resists subduction and form an indentor (solid line). The very young compartment G was probably part of this indentor before oceanic crust formed at slow spreading rate near the Wharton fossil spreading center approached subduction: The weaker rheology of outcropping or shallow serpentinite may have favored the restoration of the accretionary prism in this area. Further south, the deviation off Java is explained by the resistance of the thicker Roo Rise, an oceanic plateau entering the subduction.

Seismic Hazard and Seismic Risk

  • These are the two maps shown in the map above, the GEM Seismic Hazard and the GEM Seismic Risk maps from Pagani et al. (2018) and Silva et al. (2018).
    • The GEM Seismic Hazard Map:

    • The Global Earthquake Model (GEM) Global Seismic Hazard Map (version 2018.1) depicts the geographic distribution of the Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA) with a 10% probability of being exceeded in 50 years, computed for reference rock conditions (shear wave velocity, VS30, of 760-800 m/s). The map was created by collating maps computed using national and regional probabilistic seismic hazard models developed by various institutions and projects, and by GEM Foundation scientists. The OpenQuake engine, an open-source seismic hazard and risk calculation software developed principally by the GEM Foundation, was used to calculate the hazard values. A smoothing methodology was applied to homogenise hazard values along the model borders. The map is based on a database of hazard models described using the OpenQuake engine data format (NRML). Due to possible model limitations, regions portrayed with low hazard may still experience potentially damaging earthquakes.
    • Here is a view of the GEM seismic hazard map for Indonesia.

    • The GEM Seismic Risk Map:

    • The Global Seismic Risk Map (v2018.1) presents the geographic distribution of average annual loss (USD) normalised by the average construction costs of the respective country (USD/m2) due to ground shaking in the residential, commercial and industrial building stock, considering contents, structural and non-structural components. The normalised metric allows a direct comparison of the risk between countries with widely different construction costs. It does not consider the effects of tsunamis, liquefaction, landslides, and fires following earthquakes. The loss estimates are from direct physical damage to buildings due to shaking, and thus damage to infrastructure or indirect losses due to business interruption are not included. The average annual losses are presented on a hexagonal grid, with a spacing of 0.30 x 0.34 decimal degrees (approximately 1,000 km2 at the equator). The average annual losses were computed using the event-based calculator of the OpenQuake engine, an open-source software for seismic hazard and risk analysis developed by the GEM Foundation. The seismic hazard, exposure and vulnerability models employed in these calculations were provided by national institutions, or developed within the scope of regional programs or bilateral collaborations.
  • Here is a view of the GEM seismic risk map for Indonesia.

Tsunami Hazard

  • Here are two maps that show the results of probabilistic tsunami modeling for the nation of Indonesia (Horspool et al., 2014). These results are similar to results from seismic hazards analysis and maps. The color represents the chance that a given area will experience a certain size tsunami (or larger).
  • The first map shows the annual chance of a tsunami with a height of at least 0.5 m (1.5 feet). The second map shows the chance that there will be a tsunami at least 3 meters (10 feet) high at the coast.

  • Annual probability of experiencing a tsunami with a height at the coast of (a) 0.5m (a tsunami warning) and (b) 3m (a major tsunami warning).


    Basic & General References

  • Frisch, W., Meschede, M., Blakey, R., 2011. Plate Tectonics, Springer-Verlag, London, 213 pp.
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