Chemistry Related
A screen capture from the Tethys Consortium Web site.  Each yellow dot represents location of deadliest earthquakes over last century.

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by Noelle Heinze
In the last 100 years, earthquakes and volcanoes have caused over a million deaths in Tethys, a region extending from Gibraltar to Southeast Asia. A better understanding of the processes that cause these natural disasters is vital for developing an early warning system in densely populated areas.

Scientists hypothesize that the Tethyan belt was once an ocean that closed by the collision of Africa, Saudi Arabia, and India with Europe and Asia. The processes that closed this ocean are still active, resulting in the formation of mountains like the Himalayas and related earthquakes and volcanoes.

Currently, Assistant Professor of Geosciences Shuhab Khan, along with colleagues from three other universities, is developing a Geographic Information System (GIS) for understanding the tectonics of Tethys, which includes the area hit by the devastating 2004 Asian tsunami and the 2005 Pakistan earthquake that killed around 80,000 people.

The system will combine sophisticated computer software and hardware with geographic data for capturing, analyzing, and visualizing information about the region.

“The development and testing models that explain global-scale collision tectonics and related hazards require large, interdisciplinary data sets and tools for querying and manipulating these complex data sets. GIS capabilities dramatically enhance this potential,” says Khan.

Upon completion, this National Science Foundation-funded project will be a valuable resource for the scientific community and will have significant societal benefits.

For more information, please visit

© University of Houston 2006