The plate boundary southwest of Sumatra is part of a long tectonic collision zone that extends over 8,000 km from Papua, New Guinea, in the east to the Himalayan front in the west. The Sumatra-Andaman part of the collision zone forms a subduction zone plate boundary, which accommodates convergence between the Indo-Australia and Sunda plates. This convergence is responsible for the intense seismicity in Sumatra. The Sumatra Fault, a major transform structure that bisects Sumatra, accommodates the northwest-increasing lateral component of relative plate motion.
Most strain accumulation and release between the two plates occurs along the Sunda megathrust. The increasingly oblique convergence moving northwest is accommodated by crustal seismicity along several transform and normal faults, including the Sumatra Fault. Plate-boundary related deformation is also not restricted to the subduction zone and overriding plate: the Indo-Australian plate actually comprises two somewhat independent plates (India and Australia) that are joined along a broad, actively deforming region that produces seismicity up to several hundred kilometers west of the trench. This deformation is exemplified by the recent April 2012 earthquake sequence, which includes the April 11 M 8.6 and M 8.2 strike-slip events and their subsequent aftershocks.
Since 2004, much of the Sunda megathrust between the northern Andaman Islands and Enggano Island, a distance of more than 2,000 km, has ruptured in a series of large subduction zone earthquakes—most rupturing the plate boundary south of Banda Aceh. These events include the great M 9.1 earthquake of December 26, 2004; the M 8.6 Nias Island earthquake of March 28, 2005; and two earthquakes on September 12, 2007, of M 8.5 and M 7.9. On October 25, 2010, a M 7.8 on the shallow portion of the megathrust to the west of the Mentawai Islands caused a substantial tsunami on the west coast of those islands.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Seismicity of the Earth 1900-2012 Sumatra and vicinity