Earthquakes and tsunamis caused by low-angle normal faulting in the Banda Sea, Indonesia

Phil R. Cummins*, Ignatius R. Pranantyo, Jonathan M. Pownall, Jonathan D. Griffin, Irwan Meilano, Siyuan Zhao

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    As the world’s largest archipelagic country in Earth’s most active tectonic region, Indonesia faces a substantial earthquake and tsunami threat. Understanding this threat is a challenge because of the complex tectonic environment, the paucity of observed data and the limited historical record. Here we combine information from recent studies of the geology of Indonesia’s Banda Sea with Global Positioning System observations of crustal motion and an analysis of historical large earthquakes and tsunamis there. We show that past destructive earthquakes were not caused by the supposed megathrust of the Banda outer arc as previously thought but are due to a vast submarine normal fault system recently discovered along the Banda inner arc. Instead of being generated by coseismic seafloor displacement, we find the tsunamis were more likely caused by earthquake-triggered submarine slumping along the fault’s massive scarp, the Weber Deep. This would make the Banda detachment representative not only as a modern analogue for terranes hyper-extended by slab rollback but also for the generation of earthquakes and tsunamis by a submarine extensional fault system. Our findings suggest that low-angle normal faults in the Banda Sea generate large earthquakes, which in turn can generate tsunamis due to earthquake-triggered slumping.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)312-318
    Number of pages7
    JournalNature Geoscience
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


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