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1(a) Explain how and where earthquakes occur. (10)
Earthquake is a violent shock within the earth, releasing huge amounts of energy as
shockwaves or seismic waves. Earthquakes are tectonic; they occur on all types of plate
boundary, at hot spots away from plate boundaries and at fault lines.

When two plates try to move but become stuck against each other, stress builds up.
Eventually the plates break free along a fault, causing a sudden release of pressure and
release a tremendous amount of energy, which sends seismic waves (shock waves) out from
the point of movement-the focus or origin of the earthquake. The point on the earth’s
surface immediately above the focus is the epicentre. Seismic waves are strongest at the
epicentre but the greatest damage does not always occur there.

There are four seismic zone where earthquake can occur namely:
(i) Destructive (convergent) plate margins, this is where two plates moving toward
each other i.e. between oceanic and continental plate or between two oceanic
plates. At the destructive plate margins there is shallow, intermediate and deep
earthquakes inclined along the Benioff zone on the subducting plate where slab
pull occurs. For example in 2011 an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 known as the
Tohoku or Sendai earthquake) occurred at a depth of 32 km off the north-east
coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island where the Pacific plate begins to subduct
beneath the Eurasian plate at a rate of 83 mm a year.
(ii) Collision boundaries of two converging continental plates, such as between the
Eurasian and Indian plates where the Himalayas formed.
(iii) Conservative plate margins where faults, such as San Andreas in California, have
earthquakes but no volcanic activities. Here the North American and Pacific
plates move side by side. Great friction built up between the plates and as they
catch against each other which is eventually released in very powerful
earthquakes, usually from a shallow focus.
(iv) Constructive plate margins at Mid-Atlantic ridges where ridge push (slab push)
occurs. The lithosphere is too weak and thin for a lot of stress to build up, so
large earthquakes do not occur. They are usually shallow focus and occur with
volcanic activity.
Some earthquakes may be non-tectonic, caused by human activity putting too much stress
on faults. For example due to construction of a reserviour, which added a very heavy weight
of water to the surface such as the earthquake that occur in Sichuan, China in 2008 with a
richter scale of 7.9, killing nearly 70 000 people.

(b) Why is a knowledge of plate tectonics important in understanding the distribution of

many natural hazards? (10)

Earthquakes and volcanoes are largely the product of activities that are occurring at
plate boundaries and to a large extent, their distribution can only be explained by
reference to the movement of the earths’ tectonic plates. * Description of plate
movements and formation of earthquake refer above answer.

2. (a) Fig. 1 shows the global distribution of earthquake epicentres.
(a) Describe and explain
the distribution of earthquake epicentres shown on Fig. 1. [10]

To a considerable extent earthquake epicentres mirror the distribution of tectonic plate

boundaries. Hence the Pacific Ring of Fire is prominent as are mid-ocean boundaries.

80% of epicentres are found along the western coasts of the Americas, the Pacific islands and
the Aleutian arc i.e. around the Pacific. Although there are some mid-plate earthquakes,
these are relatively rare. The accord with plate boundaries suggests that earthquakes are
most common at subducting or collision boundaries although are also associated with
constructive and transform boundaries. The tensions set up by plate movements bring about

(b) Explain how earthquakes occur and suggest ways in which their effects can be minimised.

Earthquakes are a series of shocks due to a sudden movement of crustal rocks. This mainly
occurs along faults where energy from movement has become stored allowing the
development of a major movement (elastic rebound). This can lead to earthquake storms
along faults (e.g. California or Anatolian faults). Energy is transmitted from the focus to other
parts of the earth through seismic waves (P and S waves). Ground motion results from
seismic waves leading to building collapse disruption of roads and services and regolith slips
and slides.

The best way of minimising impact is to predict occurrence and hence allow time for
evacuation. There are a number of ways to predict earthquake such as by monitoring ground
water levels, release of random gas dissolve in groundwater, from unusual behavior of
animals, local magnetic fields. This is still limited in accuracy of timing.

Building techniques can be adapted as can the construction and location of services in
earthquake prone zones. Examples of building design resistant to earthquake is by putting
large contrete weight on top of buildings thus it will move in the opposite direction with aid
of computer programme to force of earthquake to counteract stress. Another way is by adding
cross bracing to structure to hold it together when it shakes.

Land use zoning where government or authorities allow building certain area only and other
area prone to earthquake will be restricted so are areas with weak foundation such as land
made of sand and clay otherwise it will become liquefied or jelly-like during earthquake.

Education of the public as to response can also be efficacious in saving life. Authorities
educate the public by explaining how to prepare for an earthquake. For example by asking
them to secure home’s appliances and heavy furniture, and produce earthquake kits. Offices,
schools and factories should have earthquake drills. Red crescent also issued a list of supplies
for people to keep in case of earthquake such as foodstuff, first aid kits, clothing and bedding
tools and supplies such as radio, touch light, matches, small fire extinguisher etc.

To prevent fire breakout, homes, offices should install smart metres where the gas will
automatically shut off when earthquake occurs.

3 Explain why the occurrence of many natural hazards is associated with tectonic plate
margins. [15]

4. Using examples show why earthquakes can be hazardous and describe methods that can

be used to limit their effects. (15)

Earthquakes are hazardous in areas of dense populations in close proximity to major fault
lines. For example the Haiti earthquake in January, 2012 killed 200 000 people. The reason
for the severity of the earthquake is when it struck a densely populated capital city. Poor
building foundation which turn ground into liquefication where the city is built on loose

Another reason is due to poor building constructions which are not reinforced and many had
no foundations. During the earthquake the concrete building collapsed since they had little
steel in their support columns. The earthquake was unexpected and most people were
unprepared. Incoming aid was delayed because the international airport’s control tower and
the port were destroyed and many roads were blocked.

Another example is the earthquake that occured in Christchurch, New Zealand in Feb, 2011
killing only 185 people. Almost all the damage was done by aftershock earthquake partly
because of the higher magnitude. Vertical and horizontal shaking at the same time destroyed
1000 major buildings. Liquefaction undermined the foundations of buildings and destroyed
houses built on soft sand. About 185 deaths occurred inside TV building which collapsed and
caught fire. The international airport was undamaged so overseas aid arrived quickly. Many
services such as water, sewerage systems damaged during the earthquake were restored
within a week and most within fortnight. These are the reasons why Christchurch has less
number of death due the earthquake than Haiti because they can cope with the aftershock

Limitation of effects can be cited from Christchurch Earthquake where the government
agencies imposed strict building codes, so modern buildings were built to withstand
earthquakes. Early planning for emergencies where the all rescue teams such as police, fire
and defences, together with other agencies began coordinated rescue work very quickly,
aided by satellite imagery provided by UGSC. (US Geological Survey). Electricity and mains
water supplies were repaired quickly. Thousands of portable toilets and showers were
distributed. Fully-serviced mobile homes housed the homeless until rebuilding and repairs
were finished.

For Haiti, which is a poor country recovery only depends on overseas aid. Three years after
the earthquake, half of the debris had been cleared and about 280 000 still living in camps,
some of which lacked flushing toilets. People lost their jobs because the clothing factories
were destroyed. Few people were insured against loses, but the biggest cost was for

5. What methods can be used to predict earthquakes? How successful have these methods
been? (15)
Seismic activity can be detected by use of seismographs and tilt meters, but in themselves
these are not predictive measures. It is possible to monitor movement along known
earthquake fault areas. By studying the frequency of past earthquakes it is possible to
calculate the possibility of their future occurrence. This study of seismic gaps has had some
success (e.g. Bakersfield, California) and has allowed the preparation of hazard maps.

Generally the prediction of volcanic eruptions has been more successful, but often the
amount of warning has been limited to days.

There is still some uncertainty about the timing of volcanic eruptions (e.g. Mt St Helens) but
in recent years there has been more success in evacuating populations due to sufficient
warnings. The US Geological survey keeps volcanoes in the country under close observation
and they draw up hazard maps and monitor gas emissions. In March 1980, shallow
earthquakes on the north side of Mt St Helen volcano were recognized as being different
from the thousands that occur every year. The continuous rhythmic earthquake tremor
often procedes volcanic eruptions, so services, guided by the hazard maps, worked on plans
to evacuate. Ash eruptions followed for few weeks and the north flank of the volcano
started to bulge. People were not allowed within 13 km of the summit. Most property
owners moved away and emergency evacuation plans were made for communities further
away down the valleys. On April the bulge had grown into a seizable dome. On May 18, the
north flank broke open and with the summit of the volcano, fell downhill as a massive rock
landslide 2.3 km2 in volume. Lahar ripped out 8 bridges and cut evacuation routes. Much
debris reached the Columbia river that reduce the depth of the river causing difficulties for
ships to pass through. The prediction of the volcanic eruption in Mt St Helen was successful
because people were given early warning before it erupted helicopters rescued more than
1000 people and only 57 people died, including a geologist monitoring the hazard and
people who refused to leave the area.

This has not been the case with earthquakes, which require prediction of both location and
of timing. Earthquakes often take a greater toll of human life (e.g. 2008 Sichuan). Effective
action in this case is usually longer term, i.e. building regulations, evacuation education, etc.
The area was not prepared for an earthquake. There is no fixed evacuation spots and there
is not a regular earthquake drill. This is mainly because such a large earthquake was not
expected in that region. Many buildings collapsed because they were poorly constructed,
meaning that they were not earthquake proof. The country is highly corrupt which means
that any regulations on buildings put in place could have been bypassed in order to make
cheap buildings.

6. Fig. 2 shows the effects associated with different levels of earthquake magnitude on the
modified Mercalli and Richter scales.
Using examples, explain the relationship between the earthquake effects and the level of
earthquake magnitude. How effective have been methods used to reduce the impact of
earthquakes on lives and property? (15)
The Richter scale is logarithmic whilst the Mercalli scale is more
geared to damage effects. Most hazardous impacts begin to occur
after 4 on the Richter scale and the effects escalate as the energy
release is increased logarithmically.

Most of the answer will be occupied by the second part of the question. A case study
of attempts to both predict and ameliorate the effects of earthquakes. Most will utilise
California or Japan, but at this level there must be some evaluation as well as a
realisation of the impacts in less wealthy communities.

7. (a) Fig. 3 shows the distribution of earthquake and volcanic hazards.
Explain the
distribution of earthquake and volcanic hazards and justify which areas you think are most
at risk. (10)

a)The distribution of both earthquakes and volcanoes display an association with plate
boundaries. Hence the “Pacific Ring of Fire, the belt extends through the Andes of South
America, Central America, Mexico, the Cascade Mountains of Western United States, the
Aleutain Islands, Kamchatka, the Kuril Isles, Japan, the Philippines, Celebes, New Guinea, the
Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and New Zealand.

There are three types of plate boundaries: spreading zones, transform faults, and subduc-
tion zones.

At spreading zones, molten rock rises pushing two plates apart and adding new materi- al at
their edges. Most spreading zones are found in oceans.

Transform faults are found where plates slide past one another. Earthquakes at transform
faults tend to occur at shallow depths and form fairly straight linear patterns.

Subduc- tion zones are found where one plate overrides, or subducts, another, pushing it
downward into the mantle where it melts. Subduction zones are characterized by deep-
ocean trenches, shallow to deep earthquakes, and mountain ranges con- taining active

The most hazardous areas are those where the hazards coincide with areas of dense
populations for example China. Also where local geological cicumstances can bring about
particularly large hazardous events.

(b) Using examples, explain why natural hazards have more severe effects in some areas
than in others. (15)


(a) By looking at the table