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• Relate earthquake activity to plate tectonics

• Define earthquake, and identify the focus and
epicenter of an earthquake.
• Describe the types of waves emitted during an
• Distinguish between earthquake intensity and
• Review some current methods of earthquake
Why do earthquakes occur?
• Fractures, faults
• Energy released
and propagates
in all directions
as seismic
waves causing
Where do earthquakes occur:
1) Most earthquakes occur along the edge
of the oceanic and continental plate

2) Along faults: normal, reverse, transform

• Earthquake = vibration of the Earth produced by the
rapid release of energy

• Seismic waves = energy moving outward from the focus

of an earthquake

• Focus= location of initial slip on the fault; where the

earthquake origins

• Epicenter= spot on Earth’s surface directly above the


• Isoseismals = a line connecting points on the Earth's

surface at which earthquake intensity is the same. It is
usually a closed curve around the epicenter.
Seismic waves: forms
• P-waves:
– called compressional, or push-pull waves
– Propagate parralel to the direction in which the wave is moving
– Move through solids, liquids

• S-waves:
– Called shear waves
– Propagate the movement perpendicular
to the direction in which the wave is

• Surface waves (L-waves or long waves).

– Complex motion
– Up-and-down and side-to-side
– Slowest
– Most damage to structures, buildings
Seismic waves: properties
• Velocity: function of the physical properties of
the rock the wave is traveling through
– Velocity increases with rock density
– Velocity changes when passing from one
material to another (increases/decreases)
– Liquids: S-waves do not get transmitted
through liquid; P-waves slow down

• Why is this important?

–If we know the velocity of the wave, we can infer
the type of rock it traveled through- that’s how we map
the interior of the Earth!!!
Measuring earthquakes
• Seismometers:
instruments that
detect seismic waves
• Seismographs
Record intensity, height
and amplitude of seismic
Locating the shaking
• Measure time between P and S waves on a
• Need at least 3 seismographs
Earthquake size: two ways to
1) Magnitude: Richter Scale
• Measures the energy released by fault
• related to the maximum amplitude of the S
wave measured from the seismogram
• Logarithmic-scale; quantitative measure
• For each whole number there is a 31.5 times
increase in energy
• eg. an increase from 5 to 7 on the Richter scale =
an increase in energy of 992 times!!
2) Intensity: Mercalli Scale:

– What did you feel?

– Assigns an intensity or rating to measure an
earthquake at a particular location (qualitative)
– I (not felt) to XII (buildings nearly destroyed)
– Measures the destructive effect

• Intensity is a function of:

• Energy released by fault
• Geology of the location
• Surface substrate: can magnify shock waves e.g.
Mexico City (1985) and San Francisco (1989)
Frequency of Occurrence of Earthquakes
Descriptor Magnitude Average Annually
Great 8 and higher 1¹
7 - 7.9 17 ²
6 - 6.9 134 ²
5 - 5.9 1319 ²
Light 13,000
4 - 4.9
Earthquake (estimated)
Minor 130,000
3 - 3.9
Earthquake (estimated)
Very Minor 1,300,000
2 - 2.9
Earthquaake (estimated)
¹ Based on observations since 1900.
Largest earthquake in the world
•More than 2,000 killed, 3,000 injured,
2,000,000 homeless, and $550 million
Chile : 1960 May 22 damage in southern Chile
19:11:14 UTC • tsunami caused 61 deaths
•$75 million damage in Hawaii;
Magnitude 9.5 • 138 deaths and $50 million damage in
•32 dead and missing in the Philippines;
and $500,000 damage to the west coast of
the United States.
Top 10 Most Destructive Earthquakes in the

1. The Valdivia Earthquake (1960)

The world’s most powerful earthquake ever recorded took
place in Chile in 1960, which resulted in the deaths of
between 2,000 and 6,000 people. The earthquake itself –
which measured 9.5 on the Richter Scale – caused millions
of dollars worth of damage, but the resulting tsunami was
even more destructive. It ended up affecting other countries
as widespread as New Zealand, the Aleutian Islands and
Japan, which is further evidence of its enormity. As well as
a tsunami, this earthquake also triggered a volcanic
eruption nearby, which lasted several weeks.
2. The Alaska Earthquake (1964)
1964 saw the most powerful earthquake ever to strike
North America and the second most powerful earthquake
ever to be recorded; it had a magnitude of 9.2. It caused a
tsunami and large landslides, which ended up killing almost
140 people.
3.The Indian Ocean Earthquake (2004)
In 2004 an earthquake that measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale struck in
the Indian Ocean, and the effects were devastating. It became one of
the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded, with over 230,000 people
from 14 different countries losing their lives. Massive tsunamis with
waves as high as 30 meters hit many countries in the Indian Ocean,
mainly Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. Perhaps one of the
saddest facts of this natural disaster is that it took place on Boxing Day,
just one day after one of the biggest celebrations around the world.
4. The Kamchatka Earthquakes (1952)
In 1952 an earthquake occurred near Russia, causing an
enormous tsunami. Unfortunately, the tsunami meant that
much of the destruction actually happened to Hawaii, rather
than the local area. Despite the earthquake having a
magnitude of 9, no human deaths were recorded.
5. The Tohoku Earthquake (2011)
In 2011, the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan
struck, leaving death and devastation in its wake. It
measured 9 on the Richter Scale and triggered an
immense tsunami. Damage was caused to thousands of
buildings including nuclear reactors, as well as causing a
huge loss of life. Well over 15,800 people died as a result
of the earthquake and tsunami; over 6,000 more were
injured, and sadly, a couple of thousand people have never
been found.
6. The Ecuador-Colombia Earthquake (1906)
An earthquake that had a magnitude of 8.8 took place just
off the coasts of Ecuador and Colombia in 1906. It led to a
tsunami, which damaged the entire coastline stretching
between Central America and San Francisco. It is
estimated that between 500 and 1,500 people lost their
lives as a result of all the destruction.
7. The Bio-Bio, Chile Earthquake (2010)
Chile lies very near the edges of two of the Earth’s tectonic plates, so
the region is used to seismic activity. However, the huge earthquake
which struck in 2010 was far stronger than most others, measuring 8.8
on the Richter Scale. The earthquake did trigger a tsunami; the
devastation has cost Chile billions of dollars to repair. Tragically,
amongst all the turmoil, 525 people lost their lives, 25 went missing,
thousands more were injured, and hundreds of thousands ended up
losing their homes.
8. The Rat Islands Earthquake (1965)
In 1965 an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.6 struck near
the Rat Islands, which are part of the Aleutian Islands,
Alaska. The earthquake triggered a tsunami which caused
waves reaching ten meters high, but despite this, very little
damage was actually caused.
9. The Assam-Tibet Earthquake (1950)
In 1950 an incredibly destructive earthquake hit the Assam-
Tibet region, which measured 8.6 on the Richter Scale.
This earthquake was caused by two of the Earth’s tectonic
plates to collide and move against each other. For days
afterwards the effects were felt, with landslides and cracks
appearing the ground, obliterating entire villages. There
was also terrible flooding, all of which ultimately caused the
deaths of over 1,500 people.
10. The Aleutian Islands Earthquake (1946)
In 1946 an earthquake occurred near the Aleutian Islands,
just off the west coast of Alaska. The earthquake itself
measured 8.6 on the Richter Scale and resulted in a
massive tsunami that ended up affecting both Alaska and
Hawaii. As a result, 165 people lost their lives and the
earthquake caused millions of dollars worth of damage.
Earthquake damage
• Ground Failure - constructions collapse
• Fires - from broken gas and electrical lines
• Landslides - EQ's triggered; occur in
hilly/mountainous areas.
• Liquefaction - water-saturated,
unconsolidated materials flow
• Tsunami (seismic sea waves; "tidal"
waves) - can grow up to 65 m
Earthquakes and the San Andreas
Landslides: May 30, 1970 Peru disaster

Magnitude: 7.9

•A large mass of ice and rock slid from a

vertical face on Nevado Huascaran, the
highest peak in Peru

•Debris reached a velocity of 280 km/hr

•traveled 11 km horizontally in about 4

minutes at a mean velocity of 165 km/hr.

•Buried the towns of Yungay and

Ranrahirca, The death toll in both
villages was 20,000.
The town of Huaraz flattened
India, Gujarat earthquake
Jan 26, 2001
Jun 23, 2001 S.Peru earthquake
Earthquake risk and prediction

• Long-term methods Real-time 24 Hour


1) seismic hazard maps

2) probability analysis
based on:
- historical EQ records
- geologic EQ records
- slip-rate on active faults
- frequency and
magnitude of recent EQ's
Short-term predictions
Precursor phenomena (<1 year to days)

1. Foreshocks: usually increase in magnitude

2. Ground deformation

3. Fluctuations in water well levels

4. Changes in local radio wave characteristics

5. Anomalous animal behavior???

Impacts of Earthquake Prediction