An international team of scientists digging in a sea cave in Indonesia has discovered the world’s most pristine record of tsunamis, a 5 000-year-old sedimentary snapshot that reveals for the first time how little is known about when earthquakes trigger massive waves.
“The devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caught millions of coastal residents and the scientific community off-guard,” says co-author Benjamin Horton, a professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Our geological record from a cave illustrates that we still cannot predict when the next earthquake will happen.”
“Tsunamis are not evenly spaced through time,” says Charles Rubin, the study’s lead author and a professor at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, part of Nanyang Technological University. “Our findings present a worrying picture of highly erratic tsunami recurrence. There can be long periods between tsunamis, but you can also get major tsunamis that are separated by just a few decades.”
The discovery, reported in the current issue of Nature Communications, logs a number of firsts: the first record of ancient tsunami activity found in a sea cave; the first record for such a long time period in the Indian Ocean; and the most pristine record of tsunamis anywhere in the world.
H/t reader kevin a.
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