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BGS Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions

BGS Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions

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BGS Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions
EARTHQUAKE QUESTI ONS AND
ANSWERS
What is an earthquake?

An earthquake is the sudden release of strain energy in the Earth's crust
resulting in waves of shaking that radiate outwards from the earthquake
source. When stresses in the crust exceed the strength of the rock, it
breaks along lines of weakness, either a pre-existing or new fault plane.
The point where an earthquake starts is termed the focus or hypocentre
and may be many kilometres deep within the earth. The point at the
surface directly above the focus is called the earthquake epicentre.

Where do earthquakes occur?
Anywhere! However, they are unevenly distributed over the earth, with
the majority occurring at the boundaries of the major crustal plates.
These plate boundaries are of three types: destructive, where the plates
collide; constructive, where the plates move apart; and conservative plate

boundaries, like the San Andreas Fault, where the plates slide past each other. Earthquakes also occur, less frequently, within the plates and far from the plate boundaries, as in eastern USA, Australia and the United Kingdom.

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BGS Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions
Which countries have the largest and most
frequent earthquakes?
Around 75% of the world's seismic energy is released at the edge of the
Pacific, where the thinner Pacific plate is forced beneath thicker
continental crust along 'subduction zones'. This 40,000 km band of

seismicity stretches up the west coasts of South and Central America and
from the Northern USA to Alaska, the Aleutians, Japan, China, the
Philippines, Indonesia and Australasia.

Around 15% of the total seismic energy is released where the Eurasian
and African plates are colliding, forming a band of seismicity which
stretches from Burma, westwards to the Himalayas to the Caucasus and
the Mediterranean.
What is the biggest earthquake that has
ever happened?

One of the largest earthquakes ever was the Chile event of 22 May 1960
with moment magnitude of 9.5 Mw. Other large earthquakes include
Lisbon, 1 November 1755, magnitude 8.7 Ms; Assam, 12 June 1897,
magnitude 8.7 Ms; Alaska, 28 March 1964, moment magnitude 9.2 Mw.
Although the magnitude scale is open ended, the strength of the crustal
rocks prior to fracturing limits the upper magnitude of earthquakes.

How many global earthquakes occur each
year ?
NUMBER OF EARTHQUAKES PER YEAR MAGNI TUDE 7 .0 OR
GREATER
(1900-1989)
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BGS Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions
YEAR
NUMBER
YEAR
NUMBER
YEAR
NUMBER
1900
13
1930
13
1960
22
1901
14
1931
26
1961
18
1902
8
1932
13
1962
15
1903
10
1933
14
1963
20
1904
16
1934
22
1964
15
1905
26
1935
24
1965
22
1906
32
1936
21
1966
19
1907
27
1937
22
1967
16
1908
18
1938
26
1968
30
1909
32
1939
21
1969
27
1910
36
1940
23
1970
29
1911
24
1941
24
1971
23
1912
22
1942
27
1972
20
1913
23
1943
41
1973
16
1914
22
1944
31
1974
21
1915
18
1945
27
1975
21
1916
25
1946
35
1976
25
1917
21
1947
26
1977
16
1918
21
1948
28
1978
18
1919
14
1949
36
1979
15
1920
8
1950
39
1980
18
1921
11
1951
21
1981
14
1922
14
1952
17
1982
10
1923
23
1953
22
1983
15
1924
18
1954
17
1984
8
1925
17
1955
19
1985
15
1926
19
1956
15
1986
6
1927
20
1957
14
1987
11
1928
22
1958
10
1988
8
1929
19
1959
15
1989
7
Total 1900-1989 = 1822 events = 20 per year
Statistics were compiled from the Earthquake Data Base System of the
US Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Centre, Golden
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