Sucheta Dalal :Temblor big enough to 'vibrate the whole planet
Sucheta Dalal

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Temblor big enough to 'vibrate the whole planet  

May 24, 2005

(CNN) -- Dramatic new data from the December 26, 2004, Sumatran-Andaman earthquake that generated deadly tsunamis show the event created the longest fault rupture and the longest duration of faulting ever observed, according to three reports by an international group of seismologists published Thursday in the journal "Science."

Normally, a small earthquake might last less than a second; a moderate sized earthquake might last a few seconds. This earthquake lasted between 500 and 600 seconds (at least 10 minutes)," said Charles Ammon, associate professor of geosciences at Penn State University.

The quake released an amount of energy equal to a 100 gigaton bomb, according to Roger Bilham, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado.
That's about as much energy as the United States uses in six months -- or the power of 5 million bombs the size of the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
And that power lasted longer than any quake ever recorded.
The quake, centered in the Indian Ocean, also created the biggest gash in the Earth's seabed ever observed, nearly 800 miles. That's as long as a drive from northern California into southern Canada.

Scientists estimated the average slippage (ground movement up and down) along the entire length of the fault was at least 5 meters (16.5 feet) -- with some places being moved nearly 20 meters (50 feet).

Scientists have also upgraded the magnitude of the quake
from 9.0 to between 9.1 and 9.3, a dramatically more powerful event. As a comparison: the ground shook 100 times harder during December's earthquake than what was felt in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in California. That 6.9 magnitude quake caused extensive damage from Santa Cruz to San Francisco.


-- Sucheta Dalal