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.
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.
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.
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.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?