Foundation, Concrete and Earthquake Engineering

Formation of Mount Everest disappearing Tethys Sea

About 50 million years ago, the collision of the Indian subcontinent and Asia, gave a great height to Mount Everest. Although the northward drift of India slowed dramatically with initial collision, the two continents have continued to converge as India slides under Asia.

Prior to the initial collision between India and Asia, the vast Tethys Sea existed between the two. The sea disappeared, a victim of plate tectonics, but its presence before 50 million years ago is recorded by scraps of oceanic crust preserved in the southern Tibetan plateau. It is not surprising that scientists consider the Himalayan range to be one of the planet’s best natural laboratories for studying the mountain building process and associated seismic activity. Dr. Bilham, a geophysicist on the EVEREST team, is conducting research to better understand the processes that drive seismic activity in Nepal and to help assess the danger of destructive earthquakes in Nepal and northern India. In this century, four earthquakes of Richter Magnitude 8 or greater have occurred in the Himalayas. Scientists expect another of similar magnitude to occur yet this century, putting millions of lives at risk.

At 29,028 feet, Mount Everest is five miles up — about the cruising altitude of a jet airliner. Data collected by Dr. Bilham indicates the world’s highest mountain is creeping skyward 3 to 5 millimeters with every passing year. Every time a team reaches the summit, the climbers are essentially setting a new altitude record.

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