Poster of the Northern Sumatra, Indonesia Earthquakes of 11 April 2012 - Magnitude 8.6 and 8.2

Tectonic Summary

The April 11, 2012, M8.6 and M8.2 earthquakes off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, occurred as a result of strike-slip faulting within the oceanic lithosphere of the Indo-Australia plate. The quakes were located respectively 100 km and 200 km to the southwest of the major subduction zone that defines the plate boundary between the India/Australia and Sunda plates offshore Sumatra. At this location, the India/Australia plates move north-northeast with respect to the Sunda plate at a velocity of approximately 52 mm/yr.

Large strike-slip earthquakes are not unprecedented in the diffuse boundary region separating the India and Australia plates, southwest of the Sumatra subduction zone. Since the massive M 9.1 earthquake that ruptured a 1300 km long segment of the Sumatran megathrust plate boundary in December of 2004, three earlier large strike-slip events had occurred within 50 km of the first large April 11, 2012 event. These earthquakes occurred on April 19 2006 (Mw6.2), October 4 2007 (Mw6.2) and January 10, 2012 (Mw7.2). The focal-mechanisms of the three earlier earthquakes and the two great earthquakes of April 11, 2012, are consistent in implying that each earthquake could have occurred as the result of left-lateral slip on a north-northeast striking fault or right-lateral slip on a west-northwest striking fault. The two different orientations of strike-slip faulting are both possible under the same tectonic stress field; perpendicular strike-slip faults that are both compatible with the same stress field are called "conjugate faults." Possibly faults of both orientation have been involved in the recent earthquake activity.

Earthquake Report

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