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Earthquake 30 TIMES as powerful as the horror blast could rock Adelaide

Earthquake 30 TIMES as powerful as the horror explosion that shook Christchurch in 2011 and killed 185 people could hit a major Australian city, researchers say

  • Earthquake 30 times more powerful than explosion in Christchurch could hit Adelaide
  • Geologists dug trenches around the Willung Fault, 40km south of the capital
  • They found the area could host an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale – bigger than NZ’s 6.2

An earthquake 30 times more powerful than the devastating 2011 Christchurch quake could hit Adelaide, according to leading geologists.

A team from Geoscience Australia has dug trenches along South Australia’s Willunga Fault and found evidence of significant past seismicity.

dr. Dan Clark said the surrounding area, including the state capital, could see a massive earthquake that dwarfs the 6.2-magnitude battle that shook the New Zealand city 11 years ago, resulting in 185 dead.

“We have calculated that the 55 km active length of this fault could potentially trigger a 7.2 magnitude earthquake,” he told Adelaide Now.

“An earthquake of this magnitude would release about 30 times as much energy as the earthquake that devastated Christchurch.”

An earthquake 30 times more powerful than the devastating one that hit Christchurch in 2011 could hit Adelaide, according to Geoscience Australia

An earthquake 30 times more powerful than the devastating one that hit Christchurch in 2011 could hit Adelaide, according to Geoscience Australia

In March 1954, Adelaide was rocked by an earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale - the largest ever recorded

In March 1954, Adelaide was rocked by an earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale – the largest ever recorded

Adelaide is one of the most active areas of Australia seismically, as the city lies on a series of fault lines, including the Willunga, Para and Eden faults.

In March 1954, Adelaide was rocked by an earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale – the strongest ever. Three people were seriously injured in the event.

The city has seen 10 earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 3.0 in the past 10 years, including the 3.7 earthquake in March.

While experts can’t predict exactly when a massive earthquake could hit the city, they say there’s evidence the city is experiencing major events “every few hundred years or every 100 years.”

“We haven’t seen the biggest earthquakes that could occur in most places in Australia,” he said.

Critical infrastructure, facilities and the community in general must be prepared for these events, even if they are very rare.

‘For example, a magnitude of 6.2 the magnitude of the Christchurch earthquake could occur every thousand years or every few thousand years. And earthquakes the size of the 1954 Adelaide earthquake can happen every few hundred years or every 100 years.”

A team from Geoscience Australia has dug trenches along South Australia's Willunga Fault and found evidence of significant past seismicity

A team from Geoscience Australia has dug trenches along South Australia’s Willunga Fault and found evidence of significant past seismicity

Teams from Geoscience Australia, the University of Melbourne and the Seismology Research Center have excavated two deep trenches to investigate the Willunga Fault, located 40 kilometers south of the city.

They were looking for layers of sediment displaced by major earthquakes in the area, which can be dated to roughly determine when the event happened.

The data can be used to better prepare areas for potential earthquakes and seismicity.

Teams from Geoscience Australia, the University of Melbourne and Seismology Research Center dug two deep trenches to investigate the Willunga Fault

Teams from Geoscience Australia, the University of Melbourne and Seismology Research Center dug two deep trenches to investigate the Willunga Fault

dr. Clark said it should be particularly useful for future development planning, which would discourage building hospitals, dams and power plants near high-risk areas.

“While the techniques are not new in plate-edge settings like California or New Zealand, few errors in Australia have been studied in this way,” said Dr. Clark.

‘In Australia, researchers have identified more than 350 fault lines – the landscape features caused by major earthquakes – mostly through desktop studies using digital elevation data.

“Less than a dozen of these faults have been the subject of detailed paleoseismic field studies to determine their true seismic potential.”

Facts from Geoscience Australia

  • Earthquakes in Australia are caused by the slow build-up of tension in the interior of the continent, caused by the Australian tectonic plate moving about 7 centimeters to the northeast every year. The tension built up in these tectonic plates during this movement is released as an earthquake.
  • Geoscience Australia’s National Earthquake Alerts Center provides rapid alerts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year about significant earthquakes in Australia and abroad, including earthquakes that could trigger a tsunami.
  • There have been 10 earthquakes larger than magnitude 3 within 150 kilometers of Adelaide in the last 10 years. The largest in the past decade was the 3.7 magnitude earthquake that struck Mt Barker on March 5, 2022. More than 12,000 reports were made after this event.
  • On average, Australia experiences an earthquake with a magnitude of more than 5.0 once every 1 to 2 years. An earthquake with a magnitude of more than 6.0 occurs about once every 10 years. Australia’s largest recorded earthquake occurred in 1988 at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, with an estimated magnitude of 6.6.
  • On March 1, 1954, Adelaide was hit by an earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale. It resulted in three serious injuries and damage to 3,000 buildings. More than 30,000 insurance claims were filed for damages such as collapsed and cracked walls, broken windows and collapsed chimneys. Damage to Adelaide also occurred in the 6.0 magnitude Warooka earthquake on September 19, 1902.

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