NTU’s Earth Observatory of Singapore leads international sea expedition to study the rupture of the 2012 Great Earthquake

NTU’s Earth Observatory of Singapore leads international sea expedition to study the rupture of the 2012 Great Earthquake

  • Press Release
24 Sep 2017

Joint News Release

Scientists at Earth Observatory of Singapore, an institute of Nanyang Technological University, (EOS) will be leading an international team to the Wharton Basin in the Indian Ocean to study a nascent plate boundary, where the largest intraplate earthquake ever recorded in an ocean originated.

The magnitude-8.6 earthquake, referred to by seismologists as the 2012 Great Earthquake, occurred on 11 April, 2012 off the west coast of Sumatra, and may signal the formation of a new plate boundary.

This month-long expedition aims to advance our understanding of the anatomy of this new plate boundary, its history, and how it affected the rupture patterns and faults during the 2012 intraplate earthquake.

An intraplate earthquake, which is relatively rare, occurs away from a plate boundary while the more common interplate earthquake occurs at a plate boundary.

Officially known as the MIRAGE (Marine Investigation of the Rupture Anatomy of the 2012 Great Earthquake), this expedition is the third of its kind since 2015. MIRAGE is jointly organised by EOS, France’s Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

The expedition, which involves mapping and studying the ocean floor to a depth of 30 metres, will be conducted on board the French research vessel R/V Marion Dufresne owned by the Institut Polaire Francais Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV).

The 110-metre oceanographic vessel will depart Jakarta, Indonesia, on 25 September, 2017 and make its way to the Wharton Basin located in the northeast quarter of the Indian Ocean.

The international scientific team consists of more than 30 scientists and students from these three research institutes hailing from various ASEAN countries, who will be joined by the crew on board the R/V Marion Dufresne.

A Floating Summer School on board the vessel will provide hands-on experience in marine expedition and data analyses to a young generation of students and scientists from ASEAN countries.

Professor Satish Singh, a visiting professor at EOS and a marine geophysicist from IPGP in France, will be leading this voyage.

“One of the biggest questions in plate tectonics is when and where a new plate boundary will be created and what the parameters are that control such a creation,” Prof Singh explained. “The second big question surrounds how the 2012 earthquake ruptured and how long the rupture was.

“Like previous expeditions, we will be using advanced deep-sea mapping technologies to study not just the seafloor at a depth of 5,000 metres, but also down to 40 kilometres below the seafloor to map the 2012 earthquake and previous earthquakes.”

Dr Nugroho Hananto from LIPI, said that MIRAGE will shed light on why no tsunami was triggered by the 2012 earthquake despite it being one of the largest ever recorded in the ocean.

“Just this year alone,” said Dr Hananto, “the west coast of Sumatra has seen two large earthquakes with magnitudes measuring M 6.6 and M 7.8. They are so strong that the tremors were even felt in Singapore, where there is no known tectonic activity.

“With the Asian region being a hotbed of tectonic activity, it is important for us to conduct research to discover which earthquakes can lead to tsunamis and why. This can better prepare scientists and policymakers for future natural disasters that communities will face,” said Dr Hananto.

The first expedition to the Mentawai Gap in 2015, west of the city of Padang in Sumatra, yielded great imagery of a section of the seabed that has yet to rupture from an earthquake. This very section is expected to rupture at any time, as the adjoining sections along the same fault have already done so.

Scientists will compare the seabed imagery and data from the Mentawai Gap with that of the Wharton Basin where the Great Earthquake happened, to analyse the ‘before and after’ effects of this and other earthquakes.

All information and data obtained from the Indian Ocean expeditions, such as the high-resolution maps of the ocean seabed, will be shared publically with other scientists and research organisations around the world. 


Media Contacts:

Kei Franklin
Special Projects Liaison
Earth Observatory of Singapore
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6908-2265 
Email: keifranklin@ntu.edu.sg

Lester Kok
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: 6790 6804; Mobile: 9741 5593
Email: lesterkok@ntu.edu.sg

About Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) 

The Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) is Singapore’s main hub for conducting research on geohazards, focusing on tectonics, volcanoes, and climate change in and around Southeast Asia. The Observatory is committed to acquiring knowledge of these natural hazards, passing this information on to affected communities by contributing to forecasts of such natural phenomena and helping them adapt to these environmental challenges.

The Earth Observatory of Singapore, an autonomous institute of Nanyang Technological University, is a Research Centre of Excellence located on the campus of the University.

For more information, visit www.earthobservatory.sg

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

Ranked 13th in the world, NTU has also been ranked the world’s top young university for the last two years running. The University’s main campus has been named one of the Top 15 Most Beautiful in the World. NTU also has a campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

For more information, visit www.ntu.edu.sg

About Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP)

IPGP is a graduate university with research, teaching and observational missions. It has about 500 members, one third research and teaching, one third technical and administrative, one third post-docs, visitors and doctoral students. IPGP is a CNRS unit (UMR 7154) with several partners, heads a graduate school together with University Paris Diderot and Ecole Normale Supérieure, and is a founding member of the Pôle de Recherche et d’Enseignement Supérieur (PRES) Sorbonne Paris Cité. IPGP has thirteen research groups in most aspects of the geosciences and three observatory systems (volcanologic, seismic and magnetic). The first of these is responsible for monitoring active volcanoes on French territory on the islands of Réunion, Martinique and Guadeloupe, and is also jointly (with University of the West Indies) in charge of the management of the Montserrat Volcano Observatory since April 2008. 

The institute conducts research in a wide variety of geosciences. In partnership with the University Denis Diderot, Reunion Island University and Ecole Normal Superior, the IPGP offers different research topics for doctorate studies; in addition it also offers a master level degree in Earth Sciences. The courses place emphasis on obtaining a solid base in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and geosciences (with possible specialization in Geophysics, Geochemistry or Quantitative Geosciences). Importance of individual and independent work is emphasized as well as participation in internships at research laboratories, but also within industry is encouraged. The research is conducted within fourteen different groups: Geological fluids and dynamics, Early and present geo-biosphere, Water geochemistry, Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry, Gravimetry and Geodesy, Geology of volcanic systems, Geomagnetism, Experimental Geophysics, Paleomagnetism, Physical Chemistry of Geological fluids, Planetary and Space Sciences, Seismology, Lithosphere Tectonics and Mechanics, and Marine Geosciences.

For more information, please visit http://www.ipgp.fr/fr. 

About the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI)

Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia (LIPI, Indonesian Institute of Sciences) is a government institute with a main duty to conduct government activities in scientific researches, including basic science, inter and multi-disciplinary researches. 

LIPI was officially established on 23 August 1967. However, its history can be traced by Presidential Act no. 128/1967 following a letter of People Representative Assembly (MPRS) no. 18/B/1967 concerning the merging of National Research Institute (LEMRENAS) and Indonesian Council of Science (MIPI). In following the development of national capacity in science and technology, LIPI main duties and functions have transformed many times. The last transformation took place in 2013 through Presidential Regulation no. 3/2013. 

LIPI envisioned to become a world class institute in research, science development and utilization. The goals are to produce novelty, breakthrough and invention in science, and to increase added value and sustainability of Indonesian resources.

For more information, please visit http://www.lipi.go.id.  

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