Earthquake expert studied sources of earth's stress in Nepal

April 27. 2015  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A professor at Purdue University who has studied the source of earthquakes in Nepal and other countries along the Tibetan Plateau says it is a very complex region influenced by powerful geologic forces.

Lucy Flesch, an associate professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, uses GPS measurements of ground movement and seismic data to study the collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates and identify sources of stress deep below the surface. She has studied the region for almost two decades.

"Although the relative movement of these plates is the very slow rate of only 50 millimeters per year, the energy that builds up is tremendous," Flesch said. "This is a very complex region where plates push against each other and gravitational forces on the mountains push down. Although we know this stress is building up and there will likely be an earthquake in the future, we can't predict exactly when or where it will hit. My heart goes out to the victims of the devastating earthquake."

On Saturday (April 25) a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal. According to reports there have been thousands of injuries and deaths in the region.

Flesch is co-organizer of the "Future Seismic and Geodetic Facility Needs in the Geoscience" workshop May 4-6 in Leesburg, Virginia. The workshop will discuss the future of infrastructure used to support geoscience research and inform the National Science Foundation’s investments in these facilities.

She has published multiple papers about her research into surface deformation of the Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau and forces responsible for earthquakes in the region. Papers she has co-authored related to her research in this region include:

* "Dynamics of the India-Eurasia collision zone," published in 2001 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

* "The relationship between surface kinematics and deformation of the whole lithosphere," published in 2012 in the journal Geology.

* "Evidence of active mantle flow beneath South China," published in 2013 in Geophysical Research Letters. 

Writer: Elizabeth K. Gardner, 765-494-2081, 

Source: Lucy Flesch, 765-494-0263, 

Note to Journalists: Earthquake expert Lucy Flesch will be in the Washington, D.C. area April 29-May 7. Please contact her via email or contact Elizabeth Gardner at 765-494-2081 or to arrange interviews during this time. 

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