Lecture: Searching for Ancient Earthquakes in the Interior of Asia

Speaker: Dr. Richard Walker, Dept. Earth Sciences, University of Oxford

Entry Fee

Members: Free

Visitors: £5.00

Date and Time

19:30 -


Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, 16-18 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN

Lecture Description

Photo showing the rupture of the 1911 Kemin earthquake in the Chon-Aksu valley, Kyrgyzstan (magnitude 8.1).
This earthquake caused substantial damage to the nearby city of Almaty in Kazakhstan.

Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan are lands of high mountains, faults, and earthquakes in the heart of Asia. The active deformation is due to the collision of India and Asia, which has generated faulting and mountain-building covering a region stretching from the Himalaya to Siberia, and is one of the main testing-ground for theories of continental tectonics.

A feature of many of the regions in which mountains are forming at the present-day - including central Asia - is that they are situated hundreds, or even thousands, of kilometres away from plate boundaries. As well as causing a widespread hazard to local populations, the very wide distribution of faulting within the continents show that they behave rather differently from oceanic plates, in which relative plate motions are accommodated within very narrow plate boundary zones. We still do not understand the rules that govern the distribution, in space and time, of major episodes of mountain building; but an essential first step in understanding these rules, which remains one of the fundamental goals in the study of continental tectonics, is to provide constraints on the distribution, rates, and evolution of deformation.

In this lecture, Richard will describe some of his travels in central Asia, and will show the ways in which the landscape has been influenced by active faults and earthquakes. He will give examples of earthquakes from history and from prehistory, and will examine the hazard faced at the present-day.

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