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Earthquakes occur almost everyday all over the world. Most of the time earthquakes are not strong enough to be felt by people, but the shaking caused by an earthquake can be recorded by a seismometer. These machines are located all over the world to ensure detection of earthquakes of all strengths. Only occasionally will a larger magnitude earthquake strike and cause damage to the region. There are many faults around the world and depending on where these faults are plays a major factor in determining where an earthquake will occur. It is these faults that are the reason for earthquakes. The information seismologists know about past earthquakes and earthquakes in general give them a limited ability to generally predict when and where earthquakes are going to occur.
An earthquake is the shaking of Earth’s surface caused by rapid movement of the earth’s rocky outer layer. “Earthquakes occur when tension stored in rocks suddenly releases” (Vogt 12). Faults occur at these places where rocks on either side of the crack have moved. Oceans are very common places for major tectonic plates to shift. When two plates separate, new oceanic crust is made near the fault as magma rises and eventually sets on the sea floor. If the plates on either side of the fault continue to spread then the ocean slowly becomes larger in width. This is called seafloor spreading. Mid-ocean ridges are characterized by a crack like valley at the fault. This crack like valley is caused by the tension pulling the plates apart, causing normal faulting to occur a number of times in the divergent boundary.
The most common type of fault is a normal or dip-slip fault. These occur when two blocks of earth are thrust toward each other, causing one to ride up over the other (Britt 1). “The hanging wall moves downward relative to the footwall” (Tarbuck 244). A reverse fault is the opposite of a normal fault. “The hanging wall moves upward relative to the footwall” (Tarbuck 244). A very powerful type of fault is the strike-slip fault that occurs when two plates slide past one another. The San Andreas Fault in California is a very good example of this type of fault. A great deal of damage is done when any type of fault shakes the soil under structures in a low-lying, waterlogged areas, causing liquefaction. Liquefaction occurs when an earthquake shakes the wet, sandy soil near a body of water.
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Earthquakes Faults Crack Magnitude Releases Rocks Width Boundary
The soil is forced to sink while the water is pushed up causing the surface to become very weak and dangerous.
The seafloor sees the most intense tectonic activity in the world. The frequency of earthquakes is very high at the sites of mid-ocean ridges. An example of a mid-ocean ridge is the Mid-Atlantic ridge where the seafloor is spreading at a rate of about 3 cm per year. The frequency of earthquakes at a mid-ocean ridge will depend on how much tension is happening at that point. The more tension means the more seafloor spreading, resulting in a higher frequency of earthquakes at a particular mid-ocean ridge.
When Earth’s crust is under tensional forces, the crust will become much thinner than normal and cause it to become weak. This can happen to the oceanic crust in the ocean basins, but will only cause an earthquake in a hot spot. A hot spot is an abnormal rising area of the mantle that supplies the lava for volcanoes. If a hot spot is directly below a thinned crust, then the magma in the hot spot may produce too much pressure to be held by the thinner weakened crust and if this happens, the magma can penetrate the lithosphere, and eventually erupt on the surface. The action of the magma forcing its way up can trigger earthquakes as it breaks through the crust. When magma breaks through
the crust in the sea, eventually a volcanic island will be formed in the middle of the ocean. Due to plate movements this can lead to the creation of mid-plate chains of basaltic volcanic islands like Hawaii.
A subduction zone is where two plates collide and one is forced below the other. They collide because of compression forces, pushing them into each other. One plate is pushed below the other into the mantle, where it will be recycled. An example of this is the Pacific plate subducting under the Eurasian plate.
Convergent boundaries occur when the pressure between two plates builds up over a long period of time as they push at each other (Vogt 26). As time progresses, one of the plates will start to bend downward under the other one due to extreme force. The friction between the two plates is high enough to allow them to bend without slipping. This is a very slow but continuous movement, maybe only a few millimeters every year. Every fraction moved by the plates increases the build-up of elastic strain energy within the rock. The rock continues to store this energy from a few decades to a few thousand years. “An earthquake will happen when the strain in the rocks exceeds that of the limit of the rocks” (Plate 1). The fault then ruptures, moving a large distance in a short space of time. The plates then snap back into a new position, forcing the already undercutting plate to dive down even further under the other. The collisions of two plates generally produce large forces in the plates. These forces result in the triggering of the earthquakes within the subduction zones.
Seismologists try to predict how likely it is that an earthquake will occur within a specified time, place, and size. Earthquake prediction also includes calculating how a strong ground motion will affect a certain area if an earthquake does occur. Scientists can use the growing catalogue of recorded earthquakes to estimate when and where strong seismic motions may occur. They map past earthquakes to try and determine an expected
pattern. Seismologists can also measure movement along major faults using global positioning satellites to track the relative movement of the rocky crust of a few centimeters each year along faults. This information may help predict earthquakes. Even with precise instrumental measurement of past earthquakes, conclusions about future tremors always involve uncertainty.
The elastic rebound theory gives a generalized way of predicting earthquakes because it states that a large earthquake cannot occur until the strain along a fault exceeds the strength holding the masses together. Seismologists can calculate an estimated time when the strain along the fault would be great enough to cause an earthquake. Scientists have also measured other changes along active faults to try and predict future activity. These measurements have included changes in the ability of rocks to conduct electricity, changes in ground water levels, and changes in variations in the speed at which seismic waves pass through the specific region. None of these methods have been successful in predicting earthquakes to date.
Earthquakes are common events and are happening all the time. They can be caused by many different factors within the earth’ s interior. Depending on the type of area that they happen in will determine the strength of the earthquake, and the frequency of earthquakes within the region. The distribution of earthquakes within an area will depend upon what caused the earthquake to happen in the first place.
We understand today how earthquakes are caused, and we can record where they happen every day of the year. This has helped us to learn and understand earthquakes in much detail. Today we are still not able to pinpoint exactly where earthquakes will occur but seismologists know a great deal about past earthquakes and earthquakes in general to predict where seismic activity will occur.
Britt, Robert Roy. “Earthquake Science.” 1999. 14 December 2001
“Plate Tectonics.” The Columbia Electric Encyclopedia. 1994 on Infoplease.com. 10
December 2001 <http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/sci/A0839323.html>.
Tarbuck, Edward J. Earth Science. Prentice-Hall Inc, New Jersey: 1997.
Vogt, Gregory. Predicting Earthquakes. F. Watts. New York: 1989.
Essay on EarthQuakes
2694 Words11 Pages
Earthquakes, one of the most destructive natural phenomena, consist of rapid vibrations of rock near the earth's surface. Because of their unpredictable occurrence and enormous capacity of destruction, they have brought fear to mankind since ancient times. A single shock usually lasts no more than a few seconds, but a series of smaller quakes may last for as long as five minutes. The quake felt on the surface is always the result, not the cause of some underground geologic process, and in many cases the damage done is immense. The Greek word for shaking, and (when applied to the earth) earthquake, is seismos. Therefore, the science of earthquakes is called seismology (World Book Dictionary…show more content…
Fires, landslides, tsunami, falling rock, damaged buildings, and damaged gas lines are just a few results of secondary shocks. These conditions reek havoc on earthquake corrupted areas, and in 1934, Bihar-Nepal witnessed this first hand. During a landslide, "…an observer reported that his car sank to the axles". In 1946 off the coast of the Aleutians, the base of a lighthouse ended up 45 feet below sea level after a tsunami wave over 100 feet crashed on shore (Watkins, Bottino, Morisawa 51, 53-54).
An earthquake is a natural occurrence; a phenomena just like rain. They have occurred for billions of years and descriptions as old as recorded history shows their effects on people's lives. Long before scientific explanations mankind created folklore to explain them. We have come a long way for spinning yarns around the campfire, but there is still no way to prevent earthquakes. All in all it doesn't hurt to learn as much as one can, but just like taxes and pokemon earthquakes are something we have to live with.
EARTHQUAKE REFERENCE FILES Earthquake, shaking of the earth's surface caused by rapid movement of the earth's rocky outer layer. Earthquakes occur when energy stored within the earth, usually in the form of strain in rocks, suddenly releases. This energy is transmitted to the surface of the