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Intraplate quakes signal tectonic breakup

April temblors part of massive ongoing energy release near Indonesia

Two giant earthquakes in the eastern Indian Ocean have shown geologists that breaking up is easy to do — for tectonic plates, that is.

The pair of quakes hit on April 11, startling seismologists with their size (magnitudes 8.6 and 8.2) and location (hundreds of kilometers from the active zone that spawned the deadly 2004 magnitude 9.1 earthquake and tsunami). Now, three studies reveal that the April quakes were an indication that one great slab of Earth’s crust is slowly fracturing into two.

The work, reported online September 26 in Nature, confirms that seismic risk remains high in the area.

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