The plates get stuck, building up tension. Almost every year, a large earthquake occurs somewhere in the world and captures the public's attention. And indeed, scientists had forecast a major earthquake in a seismic gap near Maule, Chile, which was hit by a magnitude-8.8 temblor in 2010. Anyone can earn Tectonic plates are large areas of rock that make up the earth's surface and they fit together like puzzle pieces. This non-stop movement causes stress on Earth’s crust. All of the tension quickly leaves the rope and you go tumbling down to the ground. More than 15,000 people were killed when an earthquake in northern Japan triggered a giant tsunami. You can think of this as the focal point of the earthquake, where all the action starts. Keep an eye (and a nose) out for gas leaks. The largest earthquake ever recorded, the 1960 quake in Chile killed more than 1,600 people, with many of the deaths resulting from tsunamis. An earthquake's size, or magnitude, depends on how large its parent fault is and how much it has slipped. They float on top of a fluid inner layer of the earth like ice on a pond and are always slowly moving around. Body waves, which are the fastest seismic waves, begin to travel from deep underground. and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you. Receive mail from us on behalf of our trusted partners or sponsors? These new discoveries will help us understand more about how planets like Mars—and our home, Earth—came to be. Earthquakes from 7 to 8 are major; about 15 of these occur annually. Have you ever wondered what causes earthquakes? There was a problem. Earthquakes are caused by shifts in the outer layers of Earth—a region called the lithosphere. 1960 — Chile, Magnitude: 9.5. 2011 — Japan, Magnitude: 9.0. In the early 19th century, the New Madrid series of earthquakes rattled the central United States. © The quake also resulted in enormous tsunami waves. These aftershocks can help scientists target the origin of the main quake, but can create problems for those suffering its aftermath. "Every earthquake doesn't repeat exactly what happened before. ), Great San Francisco Fire and Earthquake - April 18, 1906, (Image credit: Records of the Office of the Chief Skinal Officer). Just like when your friend lets go of the rope during a game of tug-of-war and the tension is quickly released, when the plates finally become 'unstuck' the tension is quickly released as waves of energy in the ground. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that all families everywhere should have an emergency kit in their home and car, and communicate with your loved ones a plan for any type of disaster (not just for earthquakes). Californians, for instance, are unlikely to be shocked if they feel the ground shuddering beneath their feet. The places along the boundaries where they bump and slip are called faults. The lithosphere isn’t a continuous piece that wraps around the whole Earth like an eggshell. If you live in known earthquake territory, make sure your shelves are firmly attached to the walls, with heavy objects on lower shelves. NASA’s InSight mission will carry a seismometer to Mars to study seismic activity there, known as marsquakes. You might think Earth is a giant lump of rock, but you'd be wrong—it's more like a freshly boiled egg: there's a hot, molten core bubbling away inside a … An earthquake occurs when the two plates that are stuck suddenly break apart. An error occurred trying to load this video. Tectonic plates are what make up the earth's crust, its outermost layer. They lock together like Velcro. The crust is divided into several pieces known as tectonic plates that are constantly in motion, grinding past one another at boundaries known as faults. An earthquake's magnitude is ranked on the moment magnitude scale, not the Richter scale. Instead, they rely on a tool known as a seismograph, which measures seismic waves, or vibrations, from an earthquake. Earthquakes can also trigger tsunamis by unleashing underwater landslides, which also displace huge amounts of seawater. One of the world's most destructive earthquakes, more than 142,000 people died from collapsing buildings and the resulting firestorm.
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