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Strong 7.9M Seismic Event w/aftershocks strikes New Britain Region, Papua New Guinea

2016/12/17

Natural Hazard – Strong Earthquake Event

The earthquake occurred in Papua New Guinea, East New Britain Region (population 170,000); east of New Ireland Province (population 26083). The maximum altitude nearby is Mount Taron in the Hans Meyer Range, 2,379 m.

Event Map: 7.9 M earthquake event near Kokopo, East New Britain, P.N.G.

Event Map: 7.9 M earthquake event near Kokopo, East New Britain, P.N.G..on 2016-12-17 at 10:51:12 UTC. This is a product of the GEOFON Extended Virtual Network (GEVN) and credit belongs to all involved institutions.

S. Pacific Ocean –  Papua New Guinea | New Britain Region, east of New Ireland Province
Location: 46km E of Taron, Papua New Guinea
Magnitude: 7.9
Time: 2016-12-17 10:51:12 UTC
Epicenter: 4°30’32.4″S 153°27’00.0″E
Depth: 103.2 km (64.2 mi) Very Deep
Area affected by light damage (estimated radius): 107 km (MMI VII)
Population: ~ 26083 people within 100km

Humanitarian Impact 

USGS – PAGER

Some casualties and damage are possible and the impact should be relatively localized.

Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are vulnerable to earthquake shaking, though some resistant structures exist. The predominant vulnerable building types are unreinforced brick masonry and informal (metal, timber, GI etc.) construction.

Recent earthquakes in this area have caused secondary hazards such as tsunamis and landslides that might have contributed to losses.

Additional information about this event

 Peak ground acceleration with 10% exceedance probability in 50 years. Excerpt from the GSHAP Global Seismic Hazard Map*. Provided by the Equator II system, GFZ Potsdam, 2016-12-17.

Peak ground acceleration with 10% exceedance probability in 50 years. Excerpt from the GSHAP Global Seismic Hazard Map*. Provided by the Equator II system, GFZ Potsdam, 2016-12-17. This is a product of the GEOFON Extended Virtual Network (GEVN) and credit belongs to all involved institutions.

USGS Interactive Map
USGS ShakeMap

Strong 7.9M earthquake event near Kokopo, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea

IRIS – mww7.9 New Ireland Region, P.N.G.

Aftershocks

Recent Earthquakes Near East New Britain, Papua New Guinea
IRIS Interactive Earthquake Browser

Tsunami Threat Statement Issued

WEPA40 PHEB 171257 TSUPAC

The maximum Tsunami wave height is 0.6m in Lamerien, Papua New Guinea. This height is estimated for 17 Dec 2016 10:01:00.

Tsunami animation
Tsunami maximum wave height

Population

887 km NE of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea / pop: 284,000 / local time: 20:51:09.9 2016-12-17
137 km E of Kokopo, Papua New Guinea / pop: 26,300 / local time: 20:51:09.9 2016-12-17


Tectonic Summary (USGS)

Finite Fault
Tectonic Setting:  Subduction Zone, Convergent Plate Boundary, Continental crust (> 25 km)

The December 17, 2016, M 7.9 earthquake east of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea occurred as the result of reverse faulting at an intermediate depth. Focal mechanism solutions indicate rupture occurred on a structure striking either northwest or southeast, and dipping at a moderate angle. At the location of the earthquake, the Australia plate converges with and subducts beneath the Pacific plate at a rate of about 105 mm/yr towards the east-northeast. At the location of the earthquake, some researchers consider the edges of the Australia and Pacific plates to be divided into several microplates that take up the overall convergence between Australia and the Pacific, including the Solomon Sea and South Bismark microplates local to this event. In this context, the December 17th event occurred along the boundary between the Solomon Sea and South Bismark microplates. The Solomon Sea microplate moves slightly faster and more northeasterly with respect to the Pacific plate (and South Bismark microplate) than does the Australia plate due to sea-floor spreading in the Woodlark Basin several hundred kilometers to the southeast of the December 17th earthquake, facilitating the classic subduction evident beneath New Britain and New Ireland. The location, depth, and focal mechanism solutions of the December 17th event are consistent with its occurrence within the interior of the subducted Australia plate lithosphere, rather than on the shallow thrust interface between these two plates.

While commonly plotted as points on maps, earthquakes of this size are more appropriately described as slip over a larger fault area. Reverse-faulting events of the size of the December 17, 2016, M 7.9 earthquake are typically about 135×60 km (length x width).

Earthquakes like this event, with focal depths between 70 and 300 km, are commonly termed “intermediate-depth” earthquakes. Intermediate-depth earthquakes represent deformation within subducted slabs rather than at the shallow plate interface between subducting and overriding tectonic plates. They typically cause less damage on the ground surface above their foci than is the case with similar-magnitude shallow-focus earthquakes, but large intermediate-depth earthquakes may be felt at great distance from their epicenters. “Deep-focus” earthquakes, those with focal depths greater than 300 km, also occur in the subducted Solomon Sea microplate to the north. Earthquakes have been reliably located to depths of about 500 km in this region.

The Papua New Guinea region frequently hosts large earthquakes. Over the preceding century, 33 other earthquakes with M 7+ occurred within 250 km of the December 17th event. 8 of these occurred at intermediate (70-300 km) or deep (300+ km) depths. The December 17th, 2016 earthquake is almost co-located with a M 7.6 event in September 2005, with a similar faulting mechanism. The 2005 event is not known to have caused damage or fatalities. One of the largest nearby historic events was a shallow M 8.0 earthquake in November 2000, about 140 km to the northwest, which resulted in at least 2 fatalities and left more than 5,000 people homeless.


More Information

Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi, dan Geofisika Djakarta, Indonesia
USGS/NEIC Denver, USA
GeoForschungsZentrum (GEOFON) Potsdam, Germany
Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre  Hawaii, USA
Earthquake Track
European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) Europe


Regional Volcanic Activity

Rabaul (Tavurvur) Volcano
Volcano Type: Pyroclastic shield/Caldera  
Elevation. 688m (2.257 ft)
Location: 4°14’20.0″S 152°12’36.0″E
New Britain, P.N.G.
Last eruption: 2014
Current status: Restless
Rabaul (Tavurvur) volcano (New Britain, Papua New Guinea) activity update

Rabaul (Tavurvur) webcams / live data

GVP volcano information – Rabaul
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Langila Volcano
Volcano Type: Complex 
Elevation. 1.330m (4,362 ft)
Location: 5°32’25.0″S 148°24’59.1″E
New Britain, P.N.G.
Last eruption: 2016
Current status: Minor activity or Eruption warning
Langila volcano Volcanic Ash Advisory: CONTINUOUS VA EMISSIONS TO FL080 EXTD N EST VA DTG: 13/1500Z

Based on analyses of satellite imagery and wind data, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 8-9, 11, and 13 December ash plumes from Langila rose to altitudes of 1.8-2.4 km (6,000-8,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted over 110 km W, WNW, and N. —Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC)

Langila webcams / live data

GVP volcano information Langila
————————————–
Ulawun Volcano
Volcano Type: Stratovolcano/Caldera  
Elevation. 2,334m (7,657 ft)
Location: 5°03’00.0″S 151°19’48.0″E
New Britain, P.N.G.
Last eruption: 2016
Current status: Minor activity or Eruption warning
Ulawun volcano Volcanic Ash Advisory: CONTINUOUS VA EMISSIONS TO FL100 EST VA DTG: 17/1530Z

Based on analyses of satellite imagery, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 16-18 November ash plumes from Ulawun rose to altitudes of 2.7-3 km (9,000-10,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted over 30 km SE, SW, and W. Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC)

Ulawun webcams / live data

GVP volcano informationUlawun
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More Volcano Information

Smithsonian / GVP volcano information
Volcano Discovery


Topographic map of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea.

Topographic map of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. Created with GMT from publicly released SRTM data. (6 June 2007). File from the Wikimedia Commons.

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