In our study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, we show that a kink in the regional fault line below Nepal explains why the highest mountains in the Himalayas are seen to grow between earthquakes. This kink has created a ramp 20km below the surface, with material constantly being pushed up and raising the height of the mountains.
The researchers, from the UK’s Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics (COMET), as well as academics from the USA and France, also demonstrate that the rupture on the fault stopped 11km below Kathmandu. This indicates that another major earthquake could take place within a shorter timeframe than the centuries that might be expected for the area.
The research was a collaboration between scientists from the University of Oxford, the University of Leeds, the University of Cambridge, California Institute of Technology, PSL Research University (France), and engineering consultancy Arup.
The majority of the work was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
Paper: ‘Himalayan megathrust geometry and relation to topography revealed by the Gorkha earthquake’ J. R. Elliott, R. Jolivet, P. J. González, J.-P. Avouac, J. Hollingsworth, M. P. Searle and V. L. Stevens is published online in Nature Geoscience.