Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Brief Communication
  • Published:


Speed and size of the Sumatra earthquake

We now have a clearer picture of the seismic features of last year's gigantic event.


Our seismological results reveal that Indonesia's devastating Sumatra–Andaman earthquake on 26 December 2004 was 2.5 times larger than initial reports suggested — second only to the 1960 Chilean earthquake in recorded magnitude. They indicate that it slowly released its energy by slip along a 1,200-km fault, generating a long rupture that contributed to the subsequent tsunami. Now that the entire rupture zone has slipped, the strain accumulated from the subduction of the Indian plate beneath the Burma microplate has been released, and there is no immediate danger of a similar tsunami being generated on this part of the plate boundary, although large earthquakes on segments to the south still present a threat.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Features of the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Stein, S. & Geller, R. J. Phys. Earth 25, 117–142 (1977).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Dahlen, F. A. & Sailor, R. V. Geophys. J. 58, 609–624 (1979).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Geller, R. & Stein, S. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 69, 1671–1691 (1979).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Stein, S. & Nunn, J. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am. 71, 1031–1047 (1981).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Dahlen, F. A. & Tromp, J. Theoretical Global Seismology (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Ji, C.

  7. Park, J.

  8. Okal, E. A. & Synolakis, C. E. Geophys. J. Int. 158, 899–912 (2004).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

  10. Sella, G. F., Dixon, T. H. & Mao, A. J. Geophys. Res. 107, doi:10.1029/2000JB000033 (2002).

  11. Chamot-Rooke, N. & Le Pichon, X. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 173, 439–455 (1999).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Curray, J. R. et al. in Geological and Geophysical Investigations of Continental Margins (eds Watkins, J. S. et al.) 189–198 (Am. Assoc. Pet. Geol., Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1979).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bird, P. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 4, doi:10.1029/2001GC000252 (2003).

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Seth Stein.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stein, S., Okal, E. Speed and size of the Sumatra earthquake. Nature 434, 581–582 (2005).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing