U-M experts available to discuss Nepal earthquake

April 25, 2015
Contact: Jim Erickson ericksn@umich.edu


Several University of Michigan experts are available to discuss the major earthquake that shook Nepal on Saturday. They include:

Marin Clark, a geomorphologist and geophysicist who studies tectonic movements in the Himalayan region and who is an expert on landslides triggered by earthquakes.

Saturday’s earthquake happened on the plate boundary between India and Eurasia, where India is moving northward into Eurasia at a rate of about 45 mm/yr. Large-to- great earthquakes (magnitudes 8 to 9) occur on the segment of the fault that includes Kathmandu every 500 to 1,000 years, Clark said.

“The region that experienced the earthquake Saturday is in one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth. So from a scientific perspective, this earthquake was quite expected,” Clark said. “The last major earthquake to affect this part of the Himalaya was in the 1500s. However, there have been three significant earthquakes in the Himalaya in the last century—in 1934, 1950 and 2005.”

Another major concern for this earthquake is secondary losses due to landslides generated by the strong shaking, said Clark, an associate professor in the U-M Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The entire area that experienced shaking is in steep, mountainous topography where landsliding is a significant hazard. A possible comparison is the magnitude-7.9 earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, in 2008, which generated more than 200,000 landslides. Many of those landslides blocked roads, which slowed response and recovery efforts. They also blocked river valleys, which created a significant flood hazard.

Read a U-M news release about some of Clark’s work in the region: When continents collide: A new twist to a 50 million-year-old tale

Contact: 734-615-0484, marinkc@umich.edu. Bio: myumi.ch/Jmn71


Ben van der Pluijm, an earthquake geologist and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Large earthquakes in this area are relatively rare but are ultimately responsible, over millions of years, for the uplift of the Himalayas, he said. “The setting of this earthquake exactly fits the predicted scenario of the Indian plate diving beneath the Asian plate,” van der Pluijm said.

Contact: 734-763-0373, vdpluijm@umich.edu. Bio: myumi.ch/JlxK7


Larry Ruff, a seismologist who studies large earthquakes around the world.

Earthquakes that occur at continent-to-continent collision boundaries, like this one, produce all types of movements: normal faulting, strike-slip faulting and thrust faulting.

“But the largest motions in an earthquake like this are likely due to thrust faulting, and in the past that has been true along the Himalayan front, from one end to the other,” Ruff said.

Contact: 734-763-9301, ruff@umich.edu. Bio: myumi.ch/6pdGE