A narrow region along the southern edge of the Tibetan Plateau could be the spawning ground for earthquakes that threaten millions of people in southern Asia in decades to come, scientists warn.
Global Positioning System measurements show that the Indian subcontinent is crashing into Asia at a rate of about 20 millimeters per year, or 2 meters per century. About 80 percent of the energy of that collision is absorbed by rocks and fault zones in a 50-kilometer-wide band that runs along the northeastern border of India through the Himalayas, the so-called Himalayan arc, says Roger Bilham, a geophysicist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The area around the arc absorbs the other 20 percent.
Nearly all of the energy accumulating in and around the mountains will eventually be released in earthquakes, according to an analysis by Bilham and his colleagues.