Case Study: Panguna, Papua New Guinea January 22, 2017 By Sydni Tung

Physical Geography

New Guinea

New Guinea islands contain many mountain ranges which gives the country easy access to high volcanic activity and earthquakes.


New Guinea
  • Between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean
  • Located Northeast of Australia and borders Indonesia

Earthquake Mechanism

New Guinea lies on a ocean to continent convergent boundary. The volcanoes of New Britain are the result of subduction of the Solomon Sea Plate under the South Bismark Plate which influences the high volcanic activities in the Solomon Islands. Earthquakes in New Guinea are very common and in fact happen at the least every year to a couple of years since at 1857. The first ever recorded earthquake was reported in 1768 and had a 7.5 magnitude and the next one, less than 90 years later had an 8.0 magnitude. Since 1857, earthquakes became more common with the average magnitude being between 7-8.

Seismograph of the New Guinea Earthquake

7.9 Magnitude of New Guinea Earthquake
  • The arrival of the P-wave between 0-4 seconds
  • The arrival of the S-wave between 4-10 seconds

New Guinea

The Nation has an indigenous population that consists of many tribes living in isolation and consists mostly of Melanesians and Papuans, with minorities of Micronesian, Polynesian, and Negrito. 70% of the population are Christian, while tribes follow indigenous beliefs. The Nation has a considered multiparty democracy and has one of the most corrupt governments in the world.

  • urban population: 13% of total population (2015)
  • rate of urbanization: 2.12% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Video of Papua New Guinea Earthquake

Geographic Context


Papua, New Guinea is rich in mineral deposits and is home to some of the world's largest copper and gold mines, while oil and gas reserves are now beginning to be exploited. Australia provides $240 million in aid every year which creates almost 20% of Papua New Guinea's federal budget. Australia and Japan receive the most exports from Papua New Guinea, while Australia and Singapore import most of the island nation's goods.

People Affected By the Earthquake

An estimated 234,000 people may have been affected by the earthquake which occurred roughly 24 miles west of the town of Panguna. No injuries were reported, but the threat of a Tsunami was later reported before being canceled two hours later.

Group and Organizations

Groups like USAID?OFDA works with non-gonvernmental organizations, international organizations and the UN to meet the needs and government relief efforts. There was also no death reports or severe injuries reported. It's not listed how New Guinea prevents earthquake injuries from happening, but since earthquakes are very common in the Panguna, Papua New Guinea region, I can only assume the organizations I listed help them in rebuilding their homes and buildings.

“Had there been any major disturbances or damage, we would have known by now,” he said, adding that the area where the quake struck was sparsely populated. USGS’s preliminary assessment was that light to moderate damage was possible on Bougainville island. - Matthew Moihoi
The predominant structure of homes in the area meant they were vulnerable to earthquakes, it said, and fatalities were possible. - Joe Sutton and Susannah Culllnane, CNN


  • New Guinea has a very tropical climate. Average monthly temperatures range from 79 degrees Fahrenheit to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Annual Rainfall is about 79 - 197 inches in the Highlands Region
  • Northwest monsoon (December to March)
  • Southeast monsoon (May to October); slight seasonal temperature variation
  • The 7.9 earthquake occured during the Northwest monsoon


The Great Barrier Reef
New Guinea Forests
New Guinea Volcanoes
  • 63.1% of Papua New Guinea is forest
  • 2.6% of the land is used for Agriculture
  • The Great Barrier reef
  • Contains mountains such as Mount Wilheim and Mount Victoria
  • Surrounded by volcanoes such as the Rabaul Caldera and the Ulawun
  • Charles Darwin’s theory is that the reef was initially formed on a land margin in coastal plains during 11,000 BCE and coral continued to grow before it submerged in 4,000 BCE as the sea level rose


  • "Topographic Map." World Geography: Understanding a Changing World, ABC-CLIO, 2017, Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.
  • "Important Historic Earthquakes in Papua New Guinea." Earthquake Report. N.p., 01 May 2014. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.
  • "Papua New Guinea." World Geography: Understanding a Changing World, ABC-CLIO, 2017, Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.
  • "7.9 Earthquake Strikes near Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands." UPI. UPI, 22 Jan. 2017. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.


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