Great shakes, it's a quake!
- from Shaastra :: vol 01 issue 02 :: Mar - Apr 2022
Ongoing research into earthquakes at various time-scales could save countless lives.
A few years ago, when I began spending time in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, I found myself shaken in more ways than one by just how often I experienced earthquakes. For a few seconds, the contents of my cup would slosh around, hanging lamps would swing, and glass panes shudder. Each episode by itself wasn't particularly alarming, but together these rumblings from deep down hinted at something dire. Which a headline would make explicit every now and then, such as this one from the Hindustan Times of July 11, 2020: Seismologists warn big Himalayan earthquake is 'overdue'; Delhi, Shimla unprepared.
But how were these seismologists so sure, and what were they doing about it?
It turns out researchers deal with earthquakes at wildly different time-scales - from trying to find signs of earthquakes that might have happened hundreds of years ago to looking for anomalies that might hint at one in the days to come. From warning people in the seconds just after an earthquake to designing structures that can withstand one well into the future. And at all those time-scales, recent years have seen exciting developments in India.
Kusala Rajendran, a seismologist at the Centre for Earth Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, studies ancient earthquakes. "When you look at the Himalaya from the Gangetic plain," she explains, "you see them rising as hills." And this is a consequence of the Indian plate diving under the Eurasian plate.