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Largest earthquake in HISTORY hit northern Chile 3,800 years ago and caused a huge tsunami

Largest earthquake in HISTORY hit northern Chile 3,800 years ago and caused a huge tsunami

From the 2005 Kashmir earthquake to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, several earthquakes have wreaked havoc on Earth in recent years.

But those quakes pale in comparison to a massive earthquake that struck northern Chile 3,800 years ago, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Southampton say the earthquake had a magnitude of about 9.5 — the same scale as the largest on record — and triggered a massive tsunami that traveled more than 5,000 miles to New Zealand.

A massive earthquake in the Atacama Desert sparked a tsunami that traveled all the way to New Zealand, a new study has revealed

A massive earthquake in the Atacama Desert sparked a tsunami that traveled all the way to New Zealand, a new study has revealed

The earthquake was about 9.5 magnitude — the same scale as the largest on record — and triggered a massive tsunami that hit New Zealand more than 5,000 miles away.  When the wave hit, it moved huge boulders (pictured) nearly a kilometer inland

The earthquake was about 9.5 magnitude — the same scale as the largest on record — and triggered a massive tsunami that hit New Zealand more than 5,000 miles away. When the wave hit, it moved huge boulders (pictured) nearly a kilometer inland

How are earthquakes measured?

Magnitude is the most common measure of the magnitude of an earthquake.

It is a measure of the magnitude of the earthquake source and is the same number no matter where you are or what the shaking feels like.

The Richter scale is an outdated method of measuring magnitude that is no longer used for large, teleseismic earthquakes.

The Richter scale measures the largest movement (amplitude) on the recording, but other magnitude scales measure different parts of the earthquake.

Experts currently report earthquake magnitudes using the Moment Magnitude scale, although many other magnitudes are calculated for research and comparison purposes.

Source: United States Geological Survey (USGS)

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Earthquakes occur when two tectonic plates rub against each other and rupture, with longer ruptures causing larger earthquakes.

So far, the largest known breach in history occurred in 1960 in southern Chile.

Professor James Goff, co-author of the study, said: ‘It was thought that an event of that magnitude couldn’t happen in the north of the country simply because you couldn’t get a fracture long enough.

“But we’ve now found evidence of a rift some 1,000 miles long just off the coast of the Atacama Desert, and it’s huge.”

Despite being one of the driest environments in the world, the researchers found evidence of marine sediments and creatures that would have lived in the sea before being thrown inland.

“We found these all very high up and way inland, so it couldn’t have been a storm that got them there,” Professor Goff explained.

Instead, the team suggests the marine sediments could be the result of a massive tsunami triggered by a massive rift.

Excavations of archaeological sites along the coastline, including at Pabellón de Pica, have also found stone buildings destroyed by the waves, with many walls falling towards the sea – probably due to strong currents.

“The locals there had nothing left,” said Professor Goff.

“Our archaeological investigation showed that there was a tremendous social upheaval as communities moved inland beyond the reach of tsunamis.

Earthquakes occur when two tectonic plates rub against each other and rupture, with longer ruptures causing larger earthquakes.  Pictured: Maps showing the likely location of the fracture

Earthquakes occur when two tectonic plates rub against each other and rupture, with longer ruptures causing larger earthquakes. Pictured: Maps showing the likely location of the fracture

Excavations of archaeological sites along the coastline, including at Pabellón de Pica (pictured), also found stone buildings destroyed by the waves, with many walls falling towards the sea - probably due to strong currents

Excavations of archaeological sites along the coastline, including at Pabellón de Pica (pictured), also found stone buildings destroyed by the waves, with many walls falling towards the sea – probably due to strong currents

A collapsed stone structure discovered at the Zapatero site, which the researchers believe may have been destroyed by the waves

A collapsed stone structure discovered at the Zapatero site, which the researchers believe may have been destroyed by the waves

‘It took over 1000 years for people to return to coastal living, which is an amazing time considering they depended on the sea for food.

“It is likely that traditions passed down from generation to generation have reinforced this resilient behavior, although we will never know for sure.

“This is the oldest example we’ve found in the Southern Hemisphere where an earthquake and tsunami had such a catastrophic impact on people’s lives, there’s a lot to learn from this.”

By coincidence, Professor Goff had researched a site on Chatham Island in New Zealand before starting this study.

Despite being one of the driest environments in the world, the researchers found evidence of marine sediments and creatures that would have lived in the sea before being thrown inland.

Despite being one of the driest environments in the world, the researchers found evidence of marine sediments and creatures that would have lived in the sea before being thrown inland.

Largest earthquake in HISTORY hit northern Chile 3,800 years ago and caused a huge tsunami

“The locals there had nothing left,” said Professor Goff. “Our archaeological investigation showed that there was a tremendous social upheaval as communities moved inland beyond the reach of tsunamis.” Pictured: Coast of the Atacama Desert

There he discovered several car-sized boulders about 3,800 years old — the same period as the tsunami — that had been thrown hundreds of meters inland.

“In New Zealand, we said those boulders could only be moved by a tsunami from northern Chile and it would take a 9.5 magnitude earthquake to generate it,” he said. . “And now we’ve found it.”

The team hopes their findings can help us prepare for the next super earthquake.

“While this had a major impact on the people of Chile, the South Pacific islands were uninhabited when they were hit by the tsunami 3,800 years ago,” added Professor Goff.

“But all of them are now well populated and many are popular tourist destinations, so if such an event happens next time, the consequences could be catastrophic unless we learn from these findings.”

WHAT CAUSES TSUNAMIS?

A tsunami, also called a tidal wave or a sea seismic wave, is a series of giant waves caused by a disturbance in the ocean.

The disturbance could be a landslide, volcanic eruption, earthquake or meteorite; the culprit is usually an earthquake.

If the landslide or earthquake that triggers the tsunami occurs near the coast, residents can see its effects almost immediately.

The first wave of the tsunami could arrive in minutes, before a government or other agency has time to issue a warning.

Areas closer to sea level have a higher risk of being affected by the waves.

Researchers have found that a layer of the remains of microscopic organisms at the bottom of the ocean can trigger tsunamis (file photo)

Researchers have found that a layer of the remains of microscopic organisms at the bottom of the ocean can trigger tsunamis (file photo)

Those less than 25 feet from sea level are the most dangerous.

The cause of death most often associated with tsunamis is drowning. Additional hazards include contamination of drinking water, fires and flooding.

The first tsunami warnings are usually based only on seismic information.

Residents of coastal areas potentially exposed to a tsunami are encouraged to follow evacuation routes in the event that they receive a tsunami warning.

They must seek higher ground or immediately head inland to get away from the ocean.

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