What causes earthquakes?

Earthquakes are caused when one of the plates in earths crust moves suddenly. This often happens when two plates get stuck together building up stress until one rock hanging up breaks causing the plate to jerk suddenly. When an earthquake happens, it can result in massive damage to structures from the shaking of the ground. Along with the initial damage, earthquakes have a variety of dangers that strike without warning. The most well known of these are aftershocks, which may strike months or even years after an earthquake. In addition, earthquakes can cause tsunamis to race around the world, or even turn soil to mud in seconds. The biggest dangers of earthquakes are falling buildings and fires from severed gas lines or electric conduits.

Historic Earthquakes

The Great Chilean Earthquake happened on May 22, 1960 and as of March 2010 is the strongest earthquake ever recorded and registered a 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale. Far more famous than the Great Chilean Quake is the Great San Fransisco Earthquake on April 18, 1906 a;though it was smaller than the Great Chilean Quake registering an estimated 8.5 on the Richter scale. Despite this, the earthquake sparked fires that made it as dangerous. On January 12, 2010 a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the nation of Haiti. This was the most powerful earthquake to strike Haiti in a century. The death toll is estimated to be somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths. Merely a month later on February 27, 2010 Chile was struck by a magnitude 8.8 earthquake. The quake affected over 2 million people in some way and killed at least 300 people.

Predicting Earthquakes

There is unfortunately no way to tell when an earthquake will happen. All we can do is hope to lessen the blow when one does strike. Across the globe there are seismographs detecting every tremor the earth gives off. Once measured scientists can use the data to locate the earthquakes epicenter. After the earthquake is located scientists calculate the earthquakes power on the Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS.) If this interests you there are several sites which allow you to locate the epicenter and calculate the magnitude of a virtual earthquake

Earthquake Safety

When an earthquake strikes it's important that an area be well prepared. In order to make a building safe the first step in prevention is to chose the right soil to build on. The best place to build is on good solid bedrock try not to build on sand and coastal areas while beautiful can be dangerous. The biggest no no is building on a fault line, that's about like putting a building over a time bomb. Next, for added protection use a base isolation technique so the building moves with the ground. On the inside secure most furniture with furniture straps specially designed for earthquakes. Other heavy objects such as T.V.s or bookcases should be secured to the wall with metal brackets. heavy books and objects on coffee tables can be secured by a non-skid pad. Use closed hooks and putty to make sure pictures and mirrors stay put. Once the earthquake starts get to a safe place such as a doorway or under a table. When under the table duck cover your head and hold on to a leg of the table. do these things and you will survive an earthquake.

Earthquake Damages

An earthquake can rate from a 1-10 on the moment magnitude scale generally the higher the magnitude the more damage. However, another big part of how much damage an earthquake causes is how well prepared an area is. For an example the Earthquake that struck Chile in 2010 measured a massive 8.8 on the MMS but, it couldn't have hit a better prepared area. Whereas the earthquake that struck Haiti while being a fair bit smaller did more damage because Haiti wasn't prepared. Between the two quakes even though the one that struck Chile was one of the strongest ever the Haitian one will end up being more infamous. While the ground shaking is dangerous; the real danger comes from falling objects and fire from cut gas lines. Another danger to houses that have been built on sandy soil is that the soil will turn to mud causing the house to slide this is called liquefaction.Earthquakes can also cause giant waves called tsunamis. In earthquakes although the shaking is the most noticeable it merely sets off the truly deadly effects.


After an earthquake the cleanup begins. Rescue teams start digging for survivors buried under rubble. Many countries of the world pitch in sending foods workers and other supplies. Two of the biggest providers are the U.S.A and China are no strangers to powerful earthquakes. Even countries with strained relations both pitch in to help a country in need. While hundreds die in the shaking and fires that quickly follow thousands die of starvation trapped in buildings, or from falling rubble. Some families will never know what has happened to their missing loved ones as the bodies are never identified. So the real battle every earthquake victim must face is despair.

Myths Surrounding Earthquakes

Before the evolution of science other cultures had ways of explaining earthquakes. In Norse mythology Loki the god of strife and mischief was imprisoned for the murder of Baldr god of beauty and light. For this crime Loki was trapped in a cave with a giant serpent suspended over him dripping venom. Loki's wife Sigyn caught the poison in a bowl but whenever she has to empty it the poison splashes on Loki's face causing him to thrash in the cave making the earth shake. In Greek mythology they have a different idea instead of the god being imprisoned he is one of the most powerful. Poseidon god of the sea and earthquakes is the cause. When he is angry he strikes the ground with his trident causing the earth to shake. This powerful god also using earthquakes as a tool for revenge. Yet there was still another theory in Japanese mythology the giant catfish Namazu is to blame for earthquakes. The massive fish lives beneath the earth and is guarded by the god Kashima. when Kashima lowers his guard the fish thrashes about shaking the earth. Even though science has now explained how earthquakes happen different cultures have had their ideas for thousands of years.

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