A monastery lies in shambles in Kathmandu after the earthquake of April 25, 2015. Niranjan Shrestha/AP

Last year’s temblor left enough energy in the ground to fuel another major disaster, say scientists.

The 7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015 killed more than 8,000, moved the city 10 feet south, and crumbled innumerable buildings as if they were made of stale cake. Yet despite more than 100 aftershocks, there’s still enough pent-up energy below the ground to fuel another huge quake, according to a study in Nature Geoscience.

In the aftermath of the disaster, scientists rushed to the Himalayas to assess the situation. What they found was the quake didn’t create a visible tear in the earth’s surface. That was odd, given they thought the fault responsible had enough strain on it to cause nearly a dozen feet of ground-shift. That likely means there’s a great well of energy still pooled below the region, which future quakes can harvest with devastating consequences.

A girl stands in 2016 by the house that fell and trapped her after last year’s quake. Many buildings in the region are still completely demolished. (Niranjan Shrestha/AP)

Here’s more from the University of Colorado Boulder about what might be lurking in the seismic pipeline:

Historical earthquakes in the region—in 1803, 1833, 1905, and 1947—also failed to rupture the surface of the Himalayan frontal faults and they, too, experienced a lack of afterslip or large subsequent earthquakes. That, according to the team’s research, means there’s significant strain throughout the region.

“There’s no evidence that it will spontaneously rupture in another damaging earthquake,” says [coauthor Roger] Bilham. “But the strain may fuel a future earthquake starting nearby. The entire Himalayan arc may host dozens of pockets of strain energy awaiting release in future great earthquakes.”

And this region remains vulnerable to earthquakes, not only because of its geography, but because of its architecture and development patterns. While this 2015 earthquake killed 8,000 people, left tens of thousands homeless, and destroyed parts of Kathmandu, the amount of strain built up in the faults, if released suddenly, could do much more damage in this part of the world. 

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. New Yorkers riding the subway.

    The Great Divide in How Americans Commute to Work

    We are cleaving into two nations—one where daily life revolves around the car, and the other where the car is receding in favor of walking, biking, and transit.

  2. An archived Geocities family homepage showing a green cottage against a background of fall leaves.

    How Geocities Suburbanized the Internet

    In the 1990s, AOL and Netscape got Americans onto the web, but it was Geocities—with its suburban-style “neighborhoods”—that made them feel at home.

  3. A photo of a DART light rail train in Dallas, Texas.

    What Cities Are Getting Wrong About Public Transportation

    Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

  4. A man carrying a young boy on his shoulders amid the fall foliage of New York's Central Park.

    Which U.S. Cities Have the Most Families With Kids?

    Spoiler alert: It’s simply not the case that families with kids have disappeared from urban America.

  5. A rendering of the Detroit People's Food Co-op

    A Black-Led Food Co-op Grows in Detroit

    The Detroit People’s Food Co-op will control food production and dissemination to bring good food and wages to an underserved community.