Topography identified Sichuan as active

The 12 May 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China was unexpectedly large. Analysis of the area, however, shows that topographic characteristics of the highly mountainous area identified the mountain range as active and could have pointed to the earthquake hazard. Topographic analysis can help evaluate other, similar fault areas for seismic risk, according to geologists from Pennsylvania State and Arizona State universities writing in Nature Geoscience. The ability to read erosional landscapes is now good enough that researchers can use topographic analysis as a reconnaissance tool to identify areas of active rock uplift, according to Eric Kirby, associate professor of geosciences, Penn State. In remote mountainous areas, this approach can shed light on the activity of blind and hidden faults.