Researchers have pinpointed the hotspots where the world’s largest earthquakes are most likely to occur with greater accuracy than ever before.

What leads to quakes?

“Subduction zones, where one plate slips under another, have long been known to harbour very powerful earthquakes but our research suggests that regions where fracture zones on the seafloor meet subduction zones are at much higher risk,” said Dietmar Muller, professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Geosciences.

Fracture zones are like rail tracks on the sea floor, tracking the history of plate motions and often tied to enormous submarine ridges elevated by up to three kilometres above the surrounding abyssal plains, the journal Solid Earth reported.

The Pacific ‘ring of fire’, an area of high earthquake and volcanic activity, and other regions where two tectonic plates converge, are sites for some of the world’s largest earthquakes, according to a Sydney statement.

“We found that 87 percent of the 15 largest (8.6 magnitude or higher) and half of the 50 largest earthquakes of the past century are associated with areas of intersection between oceanic fracture zones and subduction zones,” said a researcher.

The coasts of Southern Chile and Peru, Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, and several regions along the eastern Eurasian coastline, are some of the regions prone to great earthquakes.IANS