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A change in the grass colour, shows a 40 centimetre crack in the landscape after an earthquake near Ernabella in South Australia. While most earthquakes occur along tectonic plate boundaries, a small number occur along faults in the normally stable interior of plates.
The SA quake reactivated a well-known fault system in the Musgrave Ranges of northern South Australia, says petrologist Professor Bill Collins from the University of Newcastle. If those plate surfaces have fractures or faults through them, scars from previous geological events, those weaknesses can be reactivated as that compression goes on, and an earthquake occurs.
The cause of the SA quake would have originated in the southern alps of New Zealand, says Collins, where the fast-moving Pacific plate is locking up against the Australian plate.


Eruptions in areas where the plates converge, pushing one below the other, are much more volatile, he says. At that depth, the mantle is very hot, so when the water is released from the subducting plate it breaks molecular bonds, causing the mantle to 'soften' into a liquid, which rises as magma, he explains. This can happen where old fracture lines within the plate are pulled apart rather than compressed together. He says the enigmatic volcano has been created by unusual plate configurations where the African plate sinks below the Eurasian plate. Will the apparent rising activity in earthquakes in southern australia act as a contagion to our volcanoes in this area, as these same volcanoes were upgraded from extinct to dormant no so long ago.
That may occour however it is very unlikely, due to Australia's position in the centre of a tectoic plate.


The best known trouble spot is the Pacific Ring Of Fire, where plates diverging from the East Pacific Rise are generally subducting westward under Asia and Australia, or eastward under the Americas.
However, if the Australian Tectonic plate was to fracture, the resulting wave of eartquakes would destroy almost every Australian city.



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