Friday, January 10, 2014

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: A Most Surprising New Class Of "Hypervelocity Stars" Discovered Escaping The Gravitational Grasp Of The Milky Way Galaxy - Astronomers Are Stunned And Puzzled As To What Boosted These Stars Up To Such Extreme Velocities?!

January 10, 2014 - SPACE - An international team of astronomers has discovered a surprising new class of "hypervelocity stars" -- solitary stars moving fast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way galaxy.


Top and side views of the Milky Way galaxy show the location of four of the new class of hypervelocity stars.
These are sun-like stars that are moving at speeds of more than a million miles per hour relative to the galaxy:
fast enough to escape its gravitational grasp. The general directions from which the stars have come are shown
by the colored bands. (Credit: Graphic design by Julie Turner, Vanderbilt University. The top view of the galaxy
comes from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the side view comes
from the European Southern Observatory.)

The discovery of this new set of "hypervelocity" stars was described at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society this week in Washington, D.C., and is published in the Jan. 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

"These new hypervelocity stars are very different from the ones that have been discovered previously," said Vanderbilt University graduate student Lauren Palladino, lead author on the study. "The original hypervelocity stars are large blue stars and appear to have originated from the galactic center. Our new stars are relatively small -- about the size of the sun -- and the surprising part is that none of them appear to come from the galactic core."

The discovery came as Palladino, working under the supervision of Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, assistant professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt was mapping the Milky Way by calculating the orbits of Sun-like stars in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a massive census of the stars and galaxies in a region covering nearly one quarter of the sky.

"It's very hard to kick a star out of the galaxy," said Holley-Bockelmann. "The most commonly accepted mechanism for doing so involves interacting with the supermassive black hole at the galactic core. That means when you trace the star back to its birthplace, it comes from the center of our galaxy. None of these hypervelocity stars come from the center, which implies that there is an unexpected new class of hypervelocity star, one with a different ejection mechanism."

Astrophysicists calculate that a star must get a million-plus mile-per-hour kick relative to the motion of the galaxy to reach escape velocity. They also estimate that the Milky Way's central black hole has a mass equivalent to four million suns, large enough to produce a gravitational force strong enough to accelerate stars to hyper velocities. The typical scenario involves a binary pair of stars that get caught in the black hole's grip. As one of the stars spirals in toward the black hole, its companion is flung outward at a tremendous velocity. So far, 18 giant blue hypervelocity stars have been found that could have been produced by such a mechanism.

Now Palladino and her colleagues have discovered an additional 20 sun-sized stars that they characterize as possible hypervelocity stars. "One caveat concerns the known errors in measuring stellar motions," she said. "To get the speed of a star, you have to measure the position really accurately over decades. If the position is measured badly a few times over that long time interval, it can seem to move a lot faster than it really does. We did several statistical tests to increase the accuracy of our estimates. So we think that, although some of our candidates may be flukes, the majority are real."

The astronomers are following up with additional observations. The new rogues appear to have the same composition as normal disk stars, so the astronomers do not think that their birthplace was in the galaxy's central bulge, the halo that surrounds it, or in some other exotic place outside the galaxy. "The big question is: what boosted these stars up to such extreme velocities? We are working on that now," said Holley-Bockelmann.

Katharine Schlesinger from the Australian National University, Carlos Allende Prieto from the Universidad de La Laguna in Spain, Timothy Beers from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Young Sun Lee from New Mexico State University and Donald Schneider from Pennsylvania State University also contributed to the discovery. - Science Daily.




MASS ANIMAL DIE-OFF: No "Polar Vortex" Here - Record Extreme Heat Grips Australia Killing Thousands Of Animals; Record High Of 50.7C (123.3F); Temperature Records Set At 34 Different Locations; Bats Dropping From Trees En Masse; Kangaroos Are Collapsing; Cattle Herd Total Plummets; Farmers Could Abandon Their Properties!

January 10, 2014 - AUSTRALIA - While the US is stricken by freezing cold, Australia is suffering a record heat with temperatures approaching 50C (122F) in some parts of the country and leaving thousands of animals dead.


AFP Photo / William West

A wave of stifling heat started began around Christmas and continues to move counterclockwise across Australia's north and into the south. The latest scorcher comes on the heel of Australia’s hottest year on record.

High temperatures are now shifting into Western Australia, with large areas being “under extreme heatwave to severe heatwave.”

"Certainly looking at the forecast over the next week, it's looking like that heat is going to continue," Karly Braganza of the Bureau of Meteorology has told the AP.

Already in January, 10 heatwave conditions are expected to expand eastwards and reach parts of South Australia.

Since December 27, temperature records have been set at 34 locations across Australia, according to the Bureau.

With the absence of monsoon rains in Australia's north last summer the entire continent endured its hottest year since records began in 1910, the Bureau of Meteorology said last week. The late arrival of the monsoon in northern Australia, which has a cooling effect, is contributing to the extreme heat, Braganza said, adding that global warming also has a role in this.

The soaring temperatures have caused death and illness for thousands of animals across the country.

Bats are said to be dropping from trees en masse and kangaroos are collapsing.

"It's an enormous animal welfare concern," Louise Saunders, president of the Queensland animal welfare group Bat Conservation and Rescue told AP.

At least 50,000 bats had been killed by the heat in the southeast part of Queensland.

"As they succumb, they just fall in heaps at the base of trees," Saunders said. "You can have 250 or more — it's like dripping chocolate — all dying at the base of trees."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confirmed that about 100,000 bats recently died, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

A large number of dead parrots, kangaroos and emus have also been found due to the extended dry conditions caused by the heat wave.

‘Yep, we fried an egg on a shovel’

To demonstrate the extreme heat, pub owner Phil Turner from the Outback town of Maree, 700 kms (435 miles) north of Adelaide in South Australia, cooked an egg in a shovel.

"You hear stories of people frying an egg on a shovel, so we set up a shovel this morning out the front and sure enough we've got an egg there that's slowly frying away," he told ABC radio.

Faced with an oven-like heat, locals are desperate to find ways to cool themselves down. Some soak in a small wading pool for much of the day; others rely on two electric fans.

Soaring temperatures have had a devastating impact on cattle farmers in Queensland, which accounts for about 50 percent of the national herd. Australia is the world's third largest beef exporter, with sales during the 2013/14 season projected to reach A$5.4 billion ($4.82 billion).

But as the heat forces farmers to send cattle to slaughter, the country’s cattle herd is predicted to fall to 25 million heads during the 2013/14 season, the lowest since the 2009/10 season, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences said.

Some farmers have said that if significant rains do not fall by autumn their operations will become worthless and they would have no option but to abandon their properties, the New Zealand Herald reported.

So far, the weather outlook is not good. It is expected that the overall record high of 50.7C (123.3F) for the country set in 1960 in the south might be broken in the next few days if current conditions continue.  - RT.



GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Global Volcano Report For January 10, 2014 - Updates On Suwanose-jima, Etna, Sinabung, Fuego, El Hierro, Shiveluch, Sakurajima, Rabaul, Ulawun, Merapi, Pagan, Popocatépetl, Santiaguito And Pacaya!

January 10, 2014 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.


Suwanose-jima (Tokara Islands, Japan): Occasional stronger explosions at the volcano produce dark ash plumes rising up to 1-1.5 km altitude.


Ash plume from an eruption at Suwanose-jima this afternoon.


Etna (Sicily, Italy): The activity of the volcano has remained similar to the previous days: so far, relatively weak but more or less steady ash emissions are occurring at the North-East crater, and tremor continues its slow rise. Whether this is a precursor to more vigorous activity (from the New SE crater?) remains to be seen probably in the coming days.


Ash plume rising from the (hidden) NE crater of Etna this morning (Etna Trekking webcam Schiena dell'Asino)

Ash emission from Etna's NE crater on January 9, 2013.

On January 10, activity and tremor have decreased, but weak ash emissions continue to be observed from the NE crater.


Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): Activity of the volcano has remained similar to the previous days. The actively growing lava dome, being a mass of unstable, moderately viscous lava, frequently collapses in parts and produces hot bloack and ash avalanches (pyroclastic flows) that reached up to 4.5 km distance. According to the latest figures, the number of refugees from the 5-7 km exclusion zone has reached approx. 25,000.


4.5 km long pyroclastic flow from Sinabung this morning


Fuego (Guatemala): Activity remained elevated, but decreased a bit today, judging from the seismic signal. The volcano observatory reported moderate explosions with shock waves that ejected incandescent bombs to 200 m above the crater and left abundant incandescent avalanches on the upper crater. Associated ash plumes rose up to 1000 m and drifted 10 km before dissipating. The new lava flow towards the Ceniza drainage was 400 m long this morning.


Current seismic signal of Fuego (FG3 station, INSIVUMEH)


On January 10, seismic activity decreased at the volcano, suggesting that the latest surge in lava emission (both as larger-than-usual strombolian explosions and lava flow) is over.


El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): No new significant earthquake activity has occurred over the past week, and deformation has stabilized on all stations: the latest crisis can be regarded as over (but it is probably only a matter of time until the next one).



GPS plots of stations in northern and western El Hierro (IGN)


Shiveluch (Kamchatka): A series of ash plumes to altitudes around 20,000 ft (6 km) from the volcano were reported by VAAC Tokyo, suggesting that the lava dome is currently in a relatively active phase with frequent explosions and/or rockfalls / pyroclastic flows.


Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): Following an unusually long interval with no real explosions, two small to modest vulcanian eruptions have again occurred on 6 January and today, with ash plumes reported to 10,000 ft (3 km) and 6,000 ft (1.8 km) altitude.


Rabaul (Tavurvur) (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): Rabaul caldera's Tavurvur cone was quiet during 16-31 December. White and occasionally blue vapor plumes rose from the crater. An explosion at 0732 on 22 December generated an ash-poor plume. Weak fluctuating glow was visible at night on 31 December. (Smithsonian/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report)


Ulawun (New Britain, Papua New Guinea): RVO reported that activity at Ulawun was low during 16-31 December; diffuse ash plumes rose from the crater during 51-21 December, and white vapor emissions were visible during 22-31 December. (Smithsonian/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report)


Merapi (Western Sumatra, Indonesia): The volcano (not to be confused with Merapi in Central Java) erupted again yesterday (Thu) morning, producing a series of small (probably phreatic?) ash explosions, with ash plumes that rose to a few 100 m above the crater.

According to local newspapers citing PVMBG, the new eruptions were preceded by an increase in seismic activity under the volcano since 1 January and there were 5 explosions at 05:34, 05:53, 05:59, 06:12 and at 07:14 am local time, as well as some weaker ash emissions at 08:07.

The current alert status of Mount Merapi, a popular climbing destination, still stays at level 2 (out of 4), but it is recommended not to approach the crater within a radius of 3 km.


Pagan (Mariana Islands): Low-level unrest continued at Pagan during 27 December 2013-2 January 2014; seismicity remained above background levels. A robust steam-and-gas plume was occasionally visible in web camera images during the reporting period. A small explosion was detected at about 0145 on 28 December.

It may have produced a diffuse ash emission, but the webcam was not in operation at the time to verify. The Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow and the Volcano Alert Level remained at Advisory. (Smithsonian/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report)


Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Volcanic activity remains low. CENAPRED only counts few (2-5) weak explosive emissions per day. Glow and continuous degassing still indicate that magma is being supplied to the crater, and justify the continued alert level Yellow Phase 2.


Glow from Popocatépetl at night.


Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity remains essentially unchanged. Small to moderate explosions are occurring at rates of 1-3 per hour, producing ash plumes that typically rise 300-600 m. Extrusion of viscous lava feeds several active block lava flows on the upper slopes of the Caliente dome. Their activity can be seen as near-constant avalanches.


The lava dome of Santiaguito this morning.


Pacaya (Guatemala): The volcano continues to be in mild strombolian activity at the Mackenney crater.


Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for January 10, 2014.


- Volcano Discovery.




INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Major Chemical Spill In West Virginia - Cuts Water Supply To 300,000; State Of Emergency Declared!

January 10, 2014 - UNITED STATES - A chemical spill into a West Virginia river has led to a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shut down bars and restaurants and led to a run on bottled water in some stores as people looked to stock up.


Crews clean up a chemical spill along the Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., which compromised the
public water supply of nine counties on Thursday.  Tyler Evert / AP

The federal government joined West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in declaring a disaster as the West Virginia National Guard arranged to dispense bottled drinking water to emergency services agencies in the counties hit by the chemical spill into the Elk River.

The advisory was expanded at night to nine counties and includes West Virginia American Water customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties.

It followed a notice from the West Virginia American Water Company that its water supply had become contaminated, sending a strange licorice-like smell wafting through the surrounding streets.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources told NBC affiliate WSAZ symptoms include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.

Once word got out about the governor's declaration, customers stripped store shelves in many areas of items such as bottled water, paper cups and bowls. As many as 50 customers had flooded a convenience store near the state Capitol in Charleston to purchase water.

“It was chaos, that’s what it was,” cashier Danny Cardwell told The Associated Press.

Residents were told not to drink the tap water, bathe in it or cook with the water and only use it for flushing and fire emergencies. Boiling it will not remove the chemicals.

“Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools," Tomblin said in a statement. "I’ve been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible.”

The odor from the spill — which has been likened to that of licorice or cough syrup — was especially pungent at the Charleston Marriott hotel just a stone’s throw from the Elk River, which runs into the Kanawha River in downtown Charleston. The Marriott shut off all water to rooms — but soon turned it back on so hotel guests could flush toilets. The hotel distributed 16.9-ounce bottles of spring water to each guest.

Schools will be closed Friday in some of the affected counties.

West Virginia American Water did not provide a timeline for the clean-up process, but the company's external affairs manager Laura Jordan told Reuters that the spill originated with Freedom Industries, a Charleston company.

It occurred right above the intake of the Kanawha Valley water treatment plant in Charleston — the largest in West Virginia — and affects 100,000 homes and businesses, or 250,000 to 300,000 people, she said.

NBC affiliate WSAZ said the leaked product is 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation.

Earlier, another West Virginia American Water spokesperson Jennifer Sayre urged residents not to panic and rush out to grocery stores to purchase bottled water, as local officials were working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to open water distribution centers.

Kanawha resident Mark Adkins told NBC News he thought local authorities gave the community plenty of time to prepare.

“We got plenty of bottled water,” he said. - NBC.



ICE AGE NOW: United Stats Coast Guard Battles Ice To Keep Shipping Channels Open - Earliest The Ice Has Frozen In The Great Lakes Since The 1930s!

January 10, 2014 - UNITED STATES - In the midst of record-breaking bitter cold, the U.S. Coast Guard has been relentlessly fighting against ice buildup in the Great Lakes region in an effort to keep important shipping channels open.




A massive swath of arctic air, known as a “Polar Vortex,” plunged temperatures well below zero from Chicago to Tulsa. In those temperatures, ice can form up to a foot thick in the rivers that connect the Great Lakes.

The Coast Guard uses ice cutters — heavy ships that have thick, reinforced hulls and polar ice-breaking bows — to clear the major shipping route that separates the U.S. and Canada, so that freight-carrying ships can get through. Without the ice cutters, large freighters can get stuck.

The ice cutters cut tracks throughout the channels, up and down the St. Mary’s River and through the Soo Locks. For those officers who work on the ice cutter boats, the job is far from easy.

“Some days, if you get strong wind, it will blow the track that you spent so much time building, say all day long, and it’ll blow it out of the channel,” said Lt. Commander John Henry on the Coast Guard cutter Bristol Bay. “Those days, those days are difficult.”

The Bristol Bay is one of four ice cutters that have been working around the clock to keep the shipping lanes open for freighters that use the Great Lakes and connecting channels to deliver goods between the Midwest and the East Coast. These massive ships range in length from 730 feet to over 1,000 feet — a ship that is 730 feet long can carry 37,000 tons.

“The biggest cargo for these lakers: iron ore, coal, heating oil and grain,” Henry said. “They pretty much come and service all the Great Lakes, coming through the Soo Locks and then heading either to Lake Erie or Lake Michigan.”

The Coast Guard said it was the earliest the ice had frozen here since the 1930s, and the river connecting Lakes Superior and Huron has been some of the toughest ice they have seen. With cutting through ice, the noise is loud and constant.

“Anytime you hit any type of ice, sound magnifies, especially when you’re going through some pretty thick stuff,” Henry said. “It’s like a constant explosion, especially when you do this all day long from sun up to sun down. But you get used to it. That’s the beauty of ice breaking. … We’re out here because we want to be.” - WWGP.



SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: "We Don't Know If The Hand Shape Is An Optical Illusion" - "Hand Of God" Spotted By NASA Space Telescope!

January 10, 2014 - SPACE - Religion and astronomy may not overlap often, but a new NASA X-ray image captures a celestial object that resembles the "Hand of God."


The hand might look like an X-ray from the doctor's office, but it is actually a cloud of material ejected from a
star that exploded. NASA's NuSTAR spacecraft has imaged the structure in high-energy X-rays for the first
time, shown in blue. Lower-energy X-ray light previously detected by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory
is shown in green and red.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/McGill

The cosmic "hand of God" photo was produced when a star exploded and ejected an enormous cloud of material, which NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, glimpsed in high-energy X-rays, shown in blue in the photo. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory had imaged the green and red parts previously, using lower-energy X-rays.

"NuSTAR's unique viewpoint, in seeing the highest-energy X-rays, is showing us well-studied objects and regions in a whole new light," NuSTAR telescope principal investigator Fiona Harrison, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement.

The new image depicts a pulsar wind nebula, produced by the dense remnant of a star that exploded in a supernova. What's left behind is a pulsar, called PSR B1509-58 (B1509 for short), which spins around 7 times per second blowing a wind of particles into material ejected during the star's death throes.

As these particles interact with nearby magnetic fields, they produce an X-ray glow in the shape of a hand. (The pulsar is located near the bright white spot in the image but cannot be seen itself, NASA officials said.)
Scientists aren't sure whether the ejected material actually assumes the shape of a hand, or whether its interaction with the pulsar's particles is just making it appear that way.

"We don't know if the hand shape is an optical illusion," Hongjun An, of McGill University in Montreal, said in a statement. "With NuSTAR, the hand looks more like a fist, which is giving us some clues."

The red cloud appearing at the fingertips is a separate structure called RCW 89. The pulsar's wind may be heating the cloud to produce the low-energy X-ray glow, astronomers believe.

The X-ray energies seen by NuSTAR range from 7 to 25 kiloelectron volts, or keV, whereas the energies seen by Chandra range from 0.5 to 2 keV.

The Hand of God is an example of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon of perceiving familiar shapes in random or vague images. Other common forms of pareidolia include seeing animals or faces in clouds, or the man in the moon. Despite its supernatural appearance, the Hand of God was produced by natural astrophysical phenomena. - SPACE.



ICE AGE NOW: "They Keep Growing" - Lake Michigan Waves Birth Giant Ice Balls!

January 10, 2014 - UNITED STATES - Visitors to the shores of Lake Michigan were greeted by an interesting sight this week, as waves lapped against hundreds of massive ice balls.


Lake Michigan turns into a sea of ice balls.


The balls, or boulders, as some have called them, are formed when water from the lake begins to freeze and is pushed ashore by wave action, according to AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

As the waves lap the shore, the ice is tumbled, smoothed and frozen into a round shape.

"It's possible that the ice is accreting like a snowball or like a hailstone, and that they keep growing," Andrews said.

While the process does require specific conditions, it's definitely not an abnormal event, he said.


WATCH: Ice balls forming along Lake Michigan.




- AccuWeather.



GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Study Finds Trigger For Armageddon Supervolcano Eruption - Yellowstone Needs Just 20% More Partial Melt To Create The Necessary Magma Pressure To Erupt!

January 10, 2014 - GEOLOGY - The supervolcano trigger for a supervolcano like Yellowstone Caldera would be the end of the Earth as we know it today. By researching supervolcano triggers, scientists are trying to understand the force that would have the power to change life on Earth and humanity forever. In a study published by Nature Geosciene on Jan. 5, 2014, researchers at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), in Grenoble, France, describe that the immense volume of a supervolcano's magma and its pressure would be enough to trigger an Armageddon-like supervolcano eruption.


Supervolcano trigger: Study finds trigger for Armageddon supervolcano eruption.National Geographic

“Scientists have reproduced the conditions inside the magma chamber of a supervolcano to understand what it takes to trigger its explosion. These rare events represent the biggest natural catastrophes on Earth except for the impact of giant meteorites,” reports ESRF.

Since the mechanisms that trigger supervolcano eruptions had been elusive until now, scientists simulated the intense pressure and heat in the caldera of a supervolcano by loading synthetic magma into a diamond capsule and firing high-energy X-rays inside - to probe for changes as the mixture reached critically high pressures.

The experiment showed that the transition from solid to liquid magma created a pressure which could crack more than 10 kilometers of Earth's crust above the volcano chamber. "Magma penetrating into the cracks will eventually reach the Earth's surface. And as it rises, it will expand violently - causing an explosion.”

"If we measure the density difference from solid to liquid magma we can calculate the pressure needed to provoke a spontaneous eruption," Mohamed Mezouar, an ESRF scientist, told BBC News.

"The effect is comparable to holding a football under water. When you release it, the air-filled ball is forced upwards by the denser water around it," said lead author Dr. Wim Malfait.

"We think Yellowstone currently has 10-30% partial melt, and for the overpressure to be high enough to erupt would take about 50%."


WATCH: Study finds trigger for Armageddon supervolcano eruption.






Besides the supervolcano in Yellowstone, there are about 20 other known supervolcanoes on Earth, including Lake Toba in Indonesia, Lake Taupo in New Zealand, and the somewhat smaller Phlegraean Fields near Naples in Italy.

According to Dr. Wim Malfait, in the event that the magma pressure would be about to trigger a supervolcano eruption, there would be warning signs like the ground rising hundreds of meters.

Even though supervolcano eruptions are triggered only once every 100,000 years on average, when they do occur, they cover countries in lava, and its ash causes catastrophic damages to Earth’s climate and ecology. Or as lead author Wim Malfait expressed it, "we knew the clock was ticking but we didn't know how fast: what would it take to trigger a super-eruption? This is something that, as a species, we will eventually have to deal with. Now we know you don't need any extra factor - a supervolcano can erupt due to its enormous size alone. Once you get enough melt, you can start an eruption just like that." - Examiner.


PLANETARY TREMORS: Tsunami Risk In New Zealand's Mega-Quake Zone - Could Take Less Than 15 Minutes To Reach The Coast!

January 10, 2014 - NEW ZEALAND - New research into giant earthquakes shows a tsunami from a quake east of New Zealand could take less than 15 minutes to reach the coast.




A team of scientists has published research they say show where giant earthquakes are most likely to strike - including off the east coast of New Zealand.

The team's leader, Wouter Schellart from Monash University in Melbourne, said quakes of magnitude 9 and over happen only in subduction zones, where one plate sinks below another into the earth's interior.

The team has mapped the zones, showing which areas produce those massive quakes.

Professor Schellart said a tsunami generated by a giant earthquake on the Tonga-Kermadec-Hikurangi fault, about 200km east of the North Island, would have the same impact as the Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

He said the waves would travel from the fault to New Zealand in 10 to 15 minutes, and would go further inshore than previously thought.

"There's not a lot of time between the earthquake and the actual tsunami reaching the coastline, so that's a challenge for people (working on) natural hazards and risk mitigation."

The other zones are in Indonesia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Greece.

Professor Schellart and Professor Nick Rawlinson, from the University of Aberdeen, have been working on the research since 2009. - Radio NZ.