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Supercomputing research unearths secrets of Japan's earthquakes

Scientists have created the first complete, 3D visualisation of a mountain-size rock called the Kumano Pluton buried miles beneath the coast of southern Japan. 

The researchers, led by a team from the University of Austin Texas, found that the rock could be acting like a lightning rod for the region’s megaquakes, diverting tectonic energy into points along its sides where several of the region’s largest earthquakes have happened.

These findings are only possible due to the collection of 20 years of seismic data that has been processed through one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, LoneStar5 located at UT’s Texas Advanced Computing Center.

‘We cannot predict exactly when, where, or how large future earthquakes will be, but by combining our model with monitoring data, we can begin estimating near-future processes,’ said Kodaira, who was among the scientists who first spotted signs of the Kumano Pluton in 2006. “That will provide very important data for the Japanese public to prepare for the next big earthquake.”

Shuichi Kodaira, director of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and a co-author of the study published Febuary 3rd in the journal Nature Geoscience explains the potential  importance of this research. ‘The findings will provide critical information for a major new Japanese government-funded project to find out whether another major earthquake is building in the Nankai subduction zone, where the pluton is located.’

The full extent of the Kumano Pluton was revealed using the UT’s supercomputer to piece together 20 years of seismic data into a single high-definition 3D model.

Adrien Arnulf, a research assistant professor at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics and the study’s lead author added: ‘The fact that we can make such a large discovery in an area that is already well studied is, I think, eye-opening to what might await at places that are less well monitored.’

The full story is available at the University of Austin Texas news website.


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