The Himalayan arc produced the largest known continental earthquake, the Mw ≈ 8.7 Assam earthquake of 1950, but how frequently and where else in the Himalaya such large-magnitude earthquakes occur is not known. Paleoseismic evidence for coseismic ruptures at the front of the Himalaya with 15 to 30 m of slip suggests even larger events in medieval times, but this inference is debated. Here we estimate the frequency and magnitude of the largest earthquake in the Himalaya needed so that the moment released by seismicity balances the deficit of moment derived from measurements of geodetic strain. Assuming one third of the moment buildup is released aseismically and the earthquakes roughly follow a Gutenberg-Richter distribution, we find that Mw > 9.0 events are needed with a confidence level of at least 60% and must return approximately once per 800 years on average.
- seismic risk