The devastating earthquake and tsunami that roiled Southeast Asia could repeat itself in the next few decades, said Kerry Sieh, a professor at the Tectonics Observatory at Caltech during a presentation at the American Geophysical Union taking place this week in San Francisco.
A single huge earthquake, or a couplet of large earthquakes, occurs roughly every two hundred years in the region, he said. A couplet of 8.4 to 8.9 earthquakes occurred in 1797 and 1833. Another pair occurred around 1590, according to evidence found in the coral beds, while a single mega-quake occurred around 1390. A huge 9.2 quake occurred last year.
"I see plenty of reason for people living along the coast to be worried," he said. "In the lifetime of their children they have to know this could happen again."
More data continues to pile in about the power of the quake. The tsunami waves likely were about ten meters, or 33 feet high. But when they hit land, waves turned into a wall of water that rose to over 100 feet in some areas. Land in several areas, such as the Indonesian coastal city of Banda Aceh, rose 3 meters. Some of the Nicobar Islands, part of India, rose several meters.