KU geologist who discovered fault line in Himalayas shares insight on earthquake

Posted on Apr 25, 2015 in Campus News and News

A deadly earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday, and according to Nepal’s National Emergency Operations Center, the death toll has topped 1,400. In issue No. 5, 2014, of Kansas Alumni magazine, associate editor Chris Lazzarino wrote about research by Mike Taylor, associate professor of geology, and his colleagues that identified a previously unknown and active fault line in the Himalayas. Professor Taylor provided an update this morning.

The epicenter of today’s 7.9 earthquake was about 40 miles north-northwest of Kathmandu and “definitely related” to the northward push of India. Essentially, that’s the plate movements and fault structure that had been previously known.

Taylor does not yet know whether or not the earthquake is also related to the previously unknown east-west movement of the western Himalayas that he and his colleagues identified last year, as described in the previous story in Kansas Alumni magazine.

He said this quake was a “low-angle structure” with displacements directed north-south. “The peak ground accelerations were in and around Kathmandu,” Taylor said, noting that the devastation was made worse by Kathmandu’s “very poor infrastructure.”

Taylor is already writing a rapid-response grant proposal to the U.S. National Science Foundation and is looking for KU Department of Geology funds, in hopes of flying to Nepal for field work within a matter of weeks.

“7.9 is a really big earthquake, and it had a devastating effect,” Taylor said. “The estimates for people who have died will unfortunately probably climb rapidly.”

—Chris Lazzarino

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