The high-magnitude earthquake of February 27 in southern Central Chile closed one of the two remaining seismic gaps at the South American plate boundary.

The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, has been monitoring this gap with the Integrated Plate Boundary Observatory (IPOC) in Chile since 2006.

After the quake of Concepción, the remaining gap in the north of Chile now holds potential for a comparable strong quake and is, thus, moving more and more into the focus of attention.

Approximately one-third of the world-wide seismic energy has been discharged during the last century in earthquakes with magnitudes of over 8 along the South American-Pacific plate boundary.

The repeat-time between two large earthquakes is shorter here than almost anywhere else on our planet.

The location for this observatory has obviously been very well selected, as the quake of February 27 shows. This last non-ruptured segment of the Earth's crust off the Chilean west coast is highly interesting for geosciences in the whole world.

The IPOC project investigates the area around Iquique on the South American Nazca Plate Boundary.

One expects that within the next years a strong to devastating earthquake will occur in this area.

“Due to the numerous expeditions and measuring campaigns over the years in this subduction zone, the GFZ now holds the densest data set world-wide for such an area,” says Onno Oncken, coordinator of the IPOC activities.

“When we monitor the conditions before, during and after a large quake this serves to help develop a hazard model for this and similar regions.” A strong quake in this region can have consequences for the global economy: the earthquakes here develop through the subduction of the Pacific-floor under South America.

The same process also leads to the formation of ore deposits in the Earth's crust. Thus, the largest copper deposit of the world is to be found on the western boundary of the Central Andes.

A strong quake could interrupt or even endanger the global supply of copper and lithium. — Our Bureau