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Earthquakes - An Introduction
Cause of Earthquakes
Effects of Earthquakes
Measuring Earthquakes
What factors influence the effects and response to tectonic activity?
The Kobe Earthquake 1995
The Turkish Earthquake 1999
Earthquakes in California
Gujarat Earthquake 2001


Earthquakes - An Introduction

An earthquake is a sudden movement of the earth's surface. You can find out about current earthquakes here.

Cause of Earthquakes

Earthquakes are caused by the movement of the earth's tectonic plates. Earthquakes occur where the earth's plates meet along plate boundaries (see plate tectonics page for more infomration on this).For example as two plates move towards each other, one can be pushed down under the other one into the mantle. If this plate gets stuck it causes a lot of pressure on surrounding rocks. When this pressure is released it produces shock waves. These are called seismic waves. This is an earthquake. The waves spread out from the point where the earthquake started - the focus. More damage is done near the focus. The point on the earth's surface directly above the focus is the epicentre.

Effects of Earthquakes

The effects of earthquakes vary. This is a result of a variety of factors such as the strength of the earthquake, the level of population in an area and the level of economic development of the area struck.

Measuring Earthquakes

The magnitude (size) of an earthquake is measured using a seismometer. This is a machine that measures movements in the earth's surface.

The Richter Scale measures earthquakes on a logarithmic scale - this means that an earthquake of 6 is ten times more powerful than one with a score of 5.

The Kobe Earthquake

At 05.46 on 17th January 1995 an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale struck the heavily populated city of Kobe, Japan. The earthquake occurred along the destructive plate boundary where the Pacific and the Philippine Plate (oceanic) meet the Eurasian (continental) plate.
Many freeways and buildings were destroyed, despite the strict building regulations, and 5000 were killed. Fires spread as a result of broken gas mains. 250,000 people were left homeless.

The Turkish Earthquake

GeoNet - What? Where? When? Why? So What? of the 1999 Turkish Earthquake

The Turkish earthquake occurred on Tuesday 17th August 1999 at 3.02 a.m. local time (12 am GMT). The earthquake lasted 45 seconds and measured 6.8 - 7.0 on the Richter Scale. See the BBC News web site for detailed case study information and images on the Turkish Earthquake.

You can download a factfile about the Turkish Earthquake here.
(MS Word 97 - Size - 59kb)

Earthquakes in California

California lies on the conservative margin where the Pacific Plate slides alongside the North American Plate (timeline of movement). As a result it is susceptible to earthquakes. The 1906 Earthquake almost destroyed San Francisco. Later, in 1989 an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter Scale hit San Francisco.

GeoNet is not responsible for the content of any of these sites

Earthquakes - Past, present and future

Earthquakes - Why the earth shakes

Earthquake Fact Sheet
(Downloadable basic activity sheet about earthquakes 52kb Word 97 format)


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