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What is an earthquake?
An earthquake is what happens when two blocks of the
earth suddenly slip past one another. The surface where
they slip is called the fault or fault plane. The location
below the earths surface where the earthquake starts is
called the hypocenter, and the location directly above it on
the surface of the earth is called the epicenter.
Sometimes an earthquake has foreshocks. These are
smaller earthquakes that happen in the same place as the
larger earthquake that follows. Scientists cant tell that an
earthquake is a foreshock until the larger earthquake
happens. The largest, main earthquake is called the
mainshock. Mainshocks always have aftershocks that
follow. These are smaller earthquakes that occur
afterwards in the same place as the mainshock. Depending
on the size of the mainshock, aftershocks can continue for
weeks, months, and even years after the mainshock!

Earthquakes are one of the most powerful natural forces that can disrupt daily lives.
Through careful study, geologists and other geographic and historical researchers
are slowly learning more about such questions as these: Why do earthquakes occur?
Why do some locations such as California and Japan receive so many earthquakes?
Can earthquakes be predicted? What is the great cost in lives and money caused by
earthquakes? Are there patterns of occurrence over time? Can we design a city to
better withstand an earthquake? Can we stop earthquakes before they occur?
Should we try?
In an earthquake the ground rumbles, hanging lamps begin to sway back and forth,
shelves begin to rattle or spill their contents, the floor and walls shake. Even if you do
not remember seeing or feeling an earthquake, you have probably lived through
thousands of tiny earthquakes during your lifetime. The earth is constantly creating
An earthquake is the shaking of the earth caused by pieces of the crust of the Earth
that suddenly shift. The crust, the thin outer layer, is mostly cold and brittle rock
compared to the hot rock deeper inside. This crust is full of large and small cracks
called faults. Although these faults can be hundreds of miles long, usually you cannot
see the cracks because they are buried deep underground and because the pieces
of crust are compressed together very tightly. The powerful forces that compress
these crustal pieces also cause them to move very slowly. When two pieces that are
next to each other get pushed in different directions, they will stick together for a long
time (many years), but eventually the forces pushing on them will force them to break
apart and move.

Types of Earthquakes and Faults

Most earthquakes in the world occur along the boundaries of the tectonic plates
as described above and are called Inter-plate Earthquakes (e.g., 1897
Assam(India) earthquake). A number of earthquakes also occur within the plate
itself but away from the plate boundaries (India) earthquake); these are called
Intra-plate Earthquakes. Here, a tectonic plate breaks in between. In both types of
earthquakes, the slip generated at the fault during earthquakes is along both
vertical and horizontal directions (called Dip Slip)and lateral directions (called
Strike Slip)
The sudden slip at the fault causes the earthquakea violent shaking of the Earth
during which large elastic strain energy released spreads out in the form of seismic
waves that travel through the body and along the surface of the Earth. And, after the
earthquake is over, the process of strain build-up at this modified interface between
the tectonic plates starts all over again (Figure 6). Earth scientists know this as the
Elastic Rebound Theory. The collection of material points at the fault over which slip
occurs usually constitutes an oblong three-dimensional volume, with its long
dimension often running intoens of kilometers in case of significant earthquakes.


A fault is a large crack in the Earth's crust where one part of the crust has moved
against another part. This movement means that faults prove the Earth is an active
place. They are signs of powerful forces deep underground.
The parts of a fault are (1) the fault plane, (2) the fault trace, (3) the hanging wall and
(4) the footwall. The fault plane is where the action is. It is a flat surface that may be
vertical or sloping. The line it makes on the Earth's surface is the fault trace. Where
the fault plane is sloping, the upper side is the hanging wall and the lower side is the
footwall. When the fault plane is vertical, there is no hanging wall or footwall.
Any fault plane can be completely described with two measurements: its strike and its
dip. The strike is the direction of the fault trace on the Earth's surface. The dip is the
measurement of how steeply the fault plane slopesif you dropped a marble on the
fault plane, it would roll exactly down the direction of dip.
t's important to know a fault's type: normal, reverse or strike-slip. The
type reflects the kind of forces that are acting on the fault.
Normal faults form when the hanging wall drops down. The forces that
create normal faults are pulling the sides apart, or extensional.
Reverse faults form when the hanging wall moves up. The forces
creating reverse faults are compressional, pushing the sides together.

Together, normal and reverse faults are called dipslip faults, because the movement on them occurs
along the dip directioneither down or up,
Strike-slip faults have walls that move sideways,
not up or down. That is, the slip occurs along the
strike, not up or down the dip. In these faults the
fault plane is usually vertical, so there is no hanging
wall or footwall. The forces creating these faults are
faults are carrying
either right-lateral
or each
or horizontal,
the sides past
lateral. That means someone standing near the
fault trace and looking across it would see the far
side move to the right or to the left, respectively.
The one in the picture is left-lateral.
In reality, many faults show a combination of dipslip and strike-slip motion. Geologists use more
sophisticated measurements to analyze these
fault movements. The Natural Fractures site has a
with more rigorous detail on these.


Earthquake shaking and damage is the result of three basic types of elastic waves.
Two of the three propagate within a body of rock. The faster of these body waves is
called the primary or P wave. Its motion is the same as that of a sound wave in that,
as it spreads out, it alternately pushes (compresses) and pulls (dilates) the rock.
These P waves are able to travel through both solid rock, such as granite mountains,
and liquid material, such as volcanic magma or the water of the oceans.

he slower wave through the body of rock is called the secondary or S wave. As an S
wave propagates, it shears the rock sideways at right angles to the direction of travel.
If a liquid is sheared sideways or twisted, it will not spring back, hence S waves
cannot propagate in the liquid parts of the earth, such as oceans and lakes.

The actual speed of P and S seismic waves depends on the density and elastic
properties of the rocks and soil through which they pass. In most earthquakes, the P
waves are felt first. The effect is similar to a sonic boom that bumps and rattles
windows. Some seconds later, the S waves arrive with their up-and-down and side-toside motion, shaking the ground surface vertically and horizontally. This is the wave
motion that is so damaging to structures.
The third general type of earthquake wave is called a surface wave, reason being is
that its motion is restricted to near the ground surface. Such waves correspond to
ripples of water that travel across a lake.
Surface waves in earthquakes can be divided into two
types. The first is called a Love wave. Its motion is essentially that of S waves that
have no vertical displacement; it moves the ground from side to side in a horizontal
plane but at right angles to the direction of propagation. The horizontal shaking of
Love waves is particuly damaging to the foundations of structures.

The second type of surface wave is known as a Rayleigh wave. Like rolling ocean
waves, Rayleigh waves wave move both vertically and horizontally in a vertical plane
pointed in the direction in which the waves are travelling.
Surface waves travel more slowly than body waves (P and S); and of the two surface
waves, Love waves generally travel faster than Rayleigh waves. Love waves (do not
propagate through water) can effect surface water only insofar as the sides of lakes and
ocean bays pushing water sideways like the sides of a vibrating tank, whereas Rayleigh
waves, becasuse of their vertical component of their motion can affect the bodies of
water such as lakes.
P and S waves have a characteristic which effects shaking: when they move through
layers of rock in the crust, they are reflected or refracted at the interfaces between rock
types. Whenever either wave is refracted or reflected, some of the energy of one type is
converted to waves of the other type. A common example; a P wave travels upwards and
strikes the bottom of a layer of alluvium, part of its energy will pass upward through the
alluvium as a P wave and part will pass upward as the converted S-wave motion. Noting
also that part of the energy will also be reflected back downward as P and S waves.

What causes earthquakes and where do they happen?

The earth has four major layers: the inner core, outer core, mantle and crust. The
crust and the top of the mantle make up a thin skin on the surface of our planet. But
this skin is not all in one piece it is made up of many pieces like a puzzle covering
the surface of the earth. (figure 3) Not only that, but these puzzle pieces keep slowly
moving around, sliding past one another and bumping into each other. We call these
puzzle pieces tectonic plates, and the edges of the plates are called the plate
boundaries. The plate boundaries are made up of many faults, and most of the
earthquakes around the world occur on these faults. Since the edges of the plates are
rough, they get stuck while the rest of the plate keeps moving. Finally, when the plate
has moved far enough, the edges unstick on one of the faults and there is an

Causes of Earthquakes
An Earthquake is a series of underground shock waves and movements on the
earths surface
caused by natural processes within the earths crust. To learn more on the
occurrence of this event
lets know more about the interior of the earth

Interior Structure of the Earth

By analyzing the seismograms from many
earthquakes, scientists have discovered
that three main levels or shells exist
within the Earth

The Earth's outermost surface is
called the
crust. The crust is relatively light
and brittle.
Most earthquakes occur within the
Scientists believe that below the
lithosphere is a

The region just below the crust and extending all the way down to the Earth's
core is called the mantle. The mantle, a dense, hot layer of semisolid rock
approximately 2,900 km thick. The part of the mantle near the crust, about 50100 km down, is especially soft and plastic, and is called the asthenosphere.
The rigid lithosphere is thought to "float" or moveabout on the slowly flowing

Beneath the mantle is the Earth's core. The
Earth's core consists of a fluid outer core
and a solid inner core. Convection currents
develop in the viscous Mantle, because of
prevailing high temperature and pressure
gradients between the Crust and the Core.
The energy for the above circulations is
derived from the heat produced from the
incessant decay of radioactive elements in
the rocks throughout the Earths interior.
These convection currents result in a
circulation of the earths mass; hot molten
lava comes out.

Elastic Rebound Theory

The sudden slip at the fault causes the earthquake.a violent shaking of the Earth
when large elastic strain energy released spreads out through seismic waves that travel
through the body and along the surface of the Earth. And, after the earthquake is over,
the process of strain build-up at this modified interface between the rocks starts all over
aga Earth scientists know this as the Elastic Rebound Theory. The material points at the
fault over which slip occurs usually constitute an oblong three dimensional volume, with
its long dimension often running into tens of kilometers.

The surface of the Earth is in continuous slow motion. This is plate tectonics--the
motion of immense rigid plates at the surface of the Earth in response to flow of rock
within the Earth. The plates cover the entire surface of the globe. Since they are all
moving they rub against each other in some places (like the San Andreas Fault in
California), sink beneath each other in others (like the Peru-Chile Trench along the
western border of South America), or spread apart from each other (like the MidAtlantic Ridge). At such places the motion isn't smooth--the plates are stuck together
at the edges but the rest of each plate is continuing to move, so the rocks along the
edges are distorted (what we call "strain"). As the motion continues, the strain builds
up to the point where the rock cannot withstand any more bending. With a lurch, the
rock breaks and the two sides move. An earthquake is the shaking that radiates out
from the breaking rock.
People have known about earthquakes for thousands of years, of course, but they
didn't know what caused them. In particular, people believed that the breaks in the
Earth's surface--faults--which appear after earthquakes, were caused *by* the
earthquakes rather than the cause *of* them. It was Bunjiro Koto, a geologist in
Japan studying a 60-mile long fault whose two sides shifted about 15 feet in the
great Japanese earthquake of 1871, who first suggested that earthquakes were
caused by faults. Henry Reid, studying the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906,
took the idea further. He said that an earthquake is the huge amount of energy
released when accumulated strain causes a fault to rupture. He explained that rock
twisted further and further out of shape by continuing forces over the centuries
eventually yields in a wrenching snap as the two sides of the fault slip to a new
position to relieve the strain.

Earthquake Vibrations
Earthquake vibrations occur in a variety of frequencies and velocities. The actual
rupture process may last from a few seconds to as long as one minute for a major
earthquake. Seismic waves generated by the rupture can last from several seconds
to a few minutes.
Ground shaking is caused by body waves and surface waves.

Body waves (P and S waves) penetrate

the body of the earth, vibrating fast. P waves traveling at about 6 km per hour,
provide the initial jolt and cause buildings to vibrate in an up and down motion. S
waves, traveling about 4 km per second in a movement similar to a rope snapped
like a whip, cause a typically sharper jolt that vibrates structures
from side to side and typically causes even greater damage. S waves are usually the
most destructive.
Surface waves vibrate the ground horizontally and vertically.
These long-period waves cause swaying of
tall buildings and slight wave motion in bodies of water even at great distances from
the epicenter.

Depth of Earthquakes
Earthquake focus depth is an important factor in shaping the
characteristics of the waves and the damage they inflict. The focal
depth can be deep (from 300 to 700 km), intermediate (60 to 300 km)
or shallow (less than 60 km).

Deep focus earthquakes are rarely destructive because

the wave amplitude is greatly attenuated by the time it
reaches the surface. Shallow focus earthquakes are
more common and are extremely damaging because of
their close proximity to the surface. Figure 8 shows the
seismicity in India in terms of depth of occurrence. Note
here that many of the earthquakes shown fall in the
region of shallow focus which can be more damaging
during an event.

Measurement Scales

Earthquakes can be described by use of two distinctly different scales of

measurement demonstrating magnitude and intensity. Earthquake
magnitude or amount of energy released is determined by use of a
seismograph, and instrument that continuously records ground vibrations.
A scale developed by a seismologist named Charles Richter mathematically

The Richter scale is logarithmic

An increase of one magnitude signifies a 10-fold increase in ground motion
or roughly an increase of 30 times the energy,Thus, an earthquake with a
magnitude of 7.5 releases 30 times more energy than one with a 6.5
magnitude, and approximately 900 times that of a 5.5 magnitude
earthquake. A quake of magnitude 3 is the smallest normally felt by
humans. The largest earthquakes that have been recorded under this
system are 9.25 (Alaska, 1969) and 9.5 (Chile, 1960).

Landslides and Avalanches

Slope instability may cause landslides and snow avalanches during an earthquake.
Steepness, weak soils and presence of water may contribute to vulnerability from
landslides. Liquefaction of soils on slopes may lead to disastrous slides. The most
abundant types of earthquake-induced landslides are rock falls and rock slides
usually originating on steep slopes.

Ground failure
Seismic vibrations may cause settlement beneath buildings when soils consolidate
or compact. Certain types
of soils, such as alluvial or sandy silts are more likely to fail during an earthquake.

Liquefaction is a type of ground failure which occurs when saturated soil loses
its strength and collapses orbecomes liquefied. During the 1964 earthquake in
Niigata, Japan, ground beneath buildings that wereearthquake resistant
became liquefied, causing the buildings to lean or topple down sideways.

Buildings can even sink into the ground if soil liquefaction occurs. Liquefaction is the
mixing of sand or soil and groundwater (water underground) during the shaking of a
moderate or strong earthquake. When the water and soil are mixed, the ground
becomes very soft and acts similar to quicksand. If liquefaction occurs under a
building, it may start to lean, tip over, or sink several feet. The ground firms up again
after the earthquake has past and the water has settled back down to its usual place
deeper in the ground. Liquefaction is a hazard in areas that have groundwater near
the surface and sandy soil.

Dip-slip faults
can occur either as "reverse" or as "normal" faults. A normal fault occurs when the
crust is extended. Alternatively such a fault can be called an extensional fault. The
hanging wall moves downward, relative to the footwall. A downthrown block
between two normal faults dipping towards each other is called a graben. An
upthrown block between two normal faults dipping away from each other is called
a horst. Low-angle normal faults with regional tectonic significance may be
designated detachment faults.
A reverse fault is the opposite of a normal faultthe hanging wall moves up
relative to the footwall. Reverse faults indi
cate shortening of the crust. The dip of a reverse fault is relatively steep, greater t
han 45.

Strike-slip fault
Schematic illustration of the two strike-slip fault types.
The fault surface is usually near vertical and the footwall moves either left or right or
laterally with very little vertical motion. Strike-slip faults with left-lateral motion are
also known as sinistral faults. Those with right-lateral motion are also known as
dextral faults.[6]
A special class of strike-slip faults is the transform fault, where such faults form a
plate boundary. These are found related to offsets in spreading centers, such as
mid-ocean ridges, and less commonly within continental lithosphere, such as the
Alpine Fault, New Zealand. Transform faults are also referred to as conservative plate
boundaries, as lithosphere is neither created nor destroyed.



Oblique-slip fault
A fault which has a component of dip-slip and a component of strike-slip is termed an
oblique-slip fault. Nearly all faults will have some component of both dip-slip and strikeslip, so defining a fault as oblique requires both dip and strike components to be
measurable and significant. Some oblique faults occur within transtensional and
transpressional regimes, others occur where the direction of extension or shortening
changes during the deformation but the earlier formed faults remain active.
The hade angle is defined as the complement of the dip angle; it is the angle between
the fault plane and a vertical plane that strikes parallel to t

Plate Tectonics
The convective flows of Mantle material cause the Crust and some portion of the
Mantle, to slide on the hot molten outer core. This sliding of Earths mass takes
place in pieces called Tectonic Plates. The surface of the Earth consists of seven
major tectonic plates and many smaller ones (Figure 3). These plates move in
different directions and at different speeds from those of the neighboring ones.
Sometimes, the plate in the runt is slower; then, the plate behind it comes and
collides (and mountains are formed). On the other hand, sometimes two plates
move away from one another (and rifts are created). In another case, two plates
move side-by-side, along the same direction or in opposite directions. These three
types of inter-plate interactions are the convergent, divergent and transform
boundaries respectively. The convergent boundary has a peculiarity (like at the
Himalayas) that sometimes neither of the colliding plates wants to sink. The relative
movement of these plate boundaries varies across the Earth; on an average, it is of
the order of a couple to tens of centimeters per year.
According to the theory, the earth's surface layer, or lithosphere, consists
of seven large and 18 smaller plates that move and interact in various ways. Along
their boundaries, they converge, diverge, and slip past one another, creating the
earth's seismic and volcanic activities. These plates lie atop a layer of partly molten
rock called the asthenosphere. The plates can carry both continents and oceans, or
exclusively one or the other. The Pacific Plate, for example, is entirely ocean.


Plate tectonics tells us that the Earth's rigid outer shell (lithosphere) is broken into a
mosaic of oceanic and continental plates which can slide over the plastic
aesthenosphere, which is the uppermost layer of the mantle. The plates are in
constant motion. Where they interact, along their margins, important geological
processes take place, such as the formation of mountain belts, earthquakes, and
The lithosphere covers the whole Earth. Therefore, ocean plates are also involved,
more particularly in the process of sea-floor spreading. This involves the midocean
ridges which are a system of narrow submarine cracks that can be traced down the
center of the major oceans. The ocean floor is being continuously pulled apart
along these midocean ridges. Hot volcanic material rises from the Earth's mantle to
fill the gap and continuously forms new oceanic crust. The midocean ridges
themselves are broken by offsets know as transform faults.
One of the keys to plate tectonics was the discovery that the Earth's magnetic field
has reversed its polarity 170 times in the last 80 million years. As new basaltic
material is squeezed up into the midocean cracks and solidifies, it is magnetized
according to the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field. If the field reverses its
polarity, the strip of new material is magnetized in an opposite sense. As the
oceanic floor continues to spread, the new strips of rock are carried away on either
side like a conveyer belt.
Using these magnetic strips as evidence of movement, it became obvious that the
Earth's surface consisted of a mosaic of crustal plates that were continually jostling
one another.

We now know that there are seven major crustal plates, subdivided into a number of
smaller plates. They are about 80 kilometers thick, all in constant motion relative to
one another, at rates varying from 10 to 130 millimeters per year. Their pattern is
neither symmetrical nor simple. As we learn more and more about the major plates,
we find that many complicated and intricate maneuvers are taking place. We learn,
too, that most of the geological action - mountains, rift valleys, volcanoes,
earthquakes, faulting - is due to different types of interaction at plate boundaries.

How are earthquakes connected with plate tectonics? In 1969, Muawia Barazangi
and James Dorman published the locations of all earthquakes which occurred from
1961 to 1967. Most of the earthquakes are confined to narrow belts and these belts
define the boundaries of the plates. The interiors of the plates themselves are largely
free of large earthquakes, that is, they are aseismic. There are notable exceptions to
this. An obvious one is the 1811-1812 earthquakes at New Madrid, Missouri, and
another is the 1886 earthquake at Charleston, South Carolina. As yet there is no
satisfactory plate tectonic explanation for these isolated events; consequently, we will
have to find alternative mechanisms.
Plate tectonics confirms that there are four types of seismic zones. The first follows the
line of midocean ridges. Activity is low, and it occurs at very shallow depths. The point
is that the lithosphere is very thin and weak at these boundaries, so the strain cannot
build up enough to cause large earthquakes. Associated with this type of seismicity is
the volcanic activity along the axis of the ridges (for example, Iceland, Azores, Tristan
da Cunha).
The second type of earthquake associated with plate tectonics is the shallow-focus
event unaccompanied by volcanic activity. The San Andreas fault is a good example of
this, so is the Anatolian fault in Northern Turkey. In these faults, two mature plates are
scraping by one another. The friction between the plates can be so great that very large
strains can build up before they are periodically relieved by large earthquakes.
Nevertheless, activity does not always occur along the entire length of the fault during
any one earthquake. For instance, the 1906 San Francisco event was caused by
breakage only along the northern end of the San Andreas fault.

The third type of earthquake is related to the collision of oceanic and continental
plates. One plate is thrust or subducted under the other plate so that a deep ocean
trench is produced. In the Philippines, ocean trenches are associated with curved
volcanic island arcs on the landward plate, for example the Java trench. Along the
Peru - Chile trench, the Nazca plate is being subducted under the South American
plate which responds by crumpling to form the Andes. This type of earthquake can
be shallow, intermediate, or deep, according to its location on the down going
lithosphere slab. Such inclined planes of earthquakes are know as Ben off zones.
The fourth type of seismic zone occurs along the boundaries of continental plates.
Typical of this is the broad swath of seismicity from Burma to the Mediterranean,
crossing the Himalayas, Iran, Turkey, to Gibraltar. Within this zone, shallow
earthquakes are associated with high mountain ranges where intense compression
is taking place. Intermediate- and deep-focus earthquakes also occur and are known
in the Himalayas and in the Caucasus. The interiors of continental plates are very
complex, much more so than island arcs.
How can plate tectonics help in earthquake prediction? We have seen that
earthquakes occur at the following three kinds of plate boundary: ocean ridges where
the plates are pulled apart, margins where the plates scrape past one another, and
margins where one plate is thrust under the other. Thus, we can predict the general
regions on the Earth's surface where we can expect large earthquakes in the future.
We know that each year about 140 earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater will occur
within this area which is 10 percent of the Earth's surface.

But on a worldwide basis we cannot say with much accuracy when these events will
occur. The reason is that the processes in plate tetonics have been going on for
millions of years. Averaged over this interval, plate motions amount to a several
millimeters per year. But at any instant in geologic time, for example, the year 1977, we
do not know exactly where we are in the worldwide cycle of strain buildup and strain
release. Only by monitoring the stress and strain in small areas, for instance, the San
Andreas fault, in great detail can we hope to predict when renewed activity in that part
of the place tectonics arena is likely to take place.
In summary, plate tectonics is a blunt, but, nevertheless, strong tool in earthquake
prediction. It tells us where 90 percent of the Earth's major earthquakes are likely to
occur. It cannot tell us much about exactly when they will occur. For that, we must study
in detail the plate boundaries themselves.

What is earthquake hazard?

Earthquake ground shaking varies from place to place and the hazard mapping in
this project will show this variability. The mapped hazard refers to an estimate of
the probability of exceeding a certain amount of ground shaking, or ground motion,
in 50 years. The hazard depends on the magnitudes and locations of likely
earthquakes, how often they occur, and the properties of the rocks and sediments
that earthquake waves travel through.


The first is a new map of the young geologic deposits in the low-lying sections of the
Bay Area. Most residents of the Bay Area live and work in these low-lying areas that
are underlain by these young deposits. It is important to map these deposits because
so much of our infrastructure resides on them, and because they may host
liquefaction, the phenomenon of saturated soils losing their stiffness and strength
during shaking. Some of the young deposits strongly affect the strength of
earthquake shaking that is transmitted through the deposits.
Figure on left shows that the shaking experienced in a region
depends very strongly on the type of deposits found near the surface. Soft muds
shake much harder than bedrock. Figure on the right (USGS photo) shows part of
the Cypress structure, the freeway approach to the Bay Bridge from Oakland,
which collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake, killing 42 people. Soft muds
on which it was constructed shook much more strongly than surrounding regions
on stronger ground. Detailed mapping is needed to forecast where shaking will be
strongest during future earthquakes.

We can expect history to repeat itself in the next big Bay Area earthquake.
The highest hazard areas shown by the liquefaction hazard maps are
concentrated in regions of man-made landfill, especially fill that was
placed many decades ago in areas that were once submerged bay floor.
Such areas along the Bay margins are found in San Francisco, Oakland
and Alameda Island, as well as other places around San Francisco Bay.
Other potentially hazardous areas include those along some of the larger
streams, which produce the loose young soils that are particularly
susceptible to liquefaction. These new maps show a lower likelihood of
liquefaction than previously thought in regions underlain by Bay mud that
fringes many parts of San Francisco Bay. Bay mud remains a seismic
hazard because on the basis of its past performance in earthquakes it will
produce stronger levels of shaking than other geologic units.

Inactive fault from Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie, Northern Ontario, Canada
All faults have a measurable thickness, made up of deformed rock characteristic of the
level in the crust where the faulting happened, of the rock types affected by the fault and
of the presence and nature of any mineralising fluids. Fault rocks are classified by their
textures and the implied mechanism of deformation. A fault that passes through different
levels of the lithosphere will have many different types of fault rock developed along its
surface. Continued dip-slip displacement tends to juxtapose fault rocks characteristic of
different crustal levels, with varying degrees of overprinting. This effect is particularly
clear in the case of detachment faults and major thrust faults.
The main types of fault rock include:

Rocks are very slowly, but continuously moving and changing shape. Under high
temperature and pressure conditions common deep within Earth, rocks can bend
and flow. In the cooler parts of Earth, rocks are colder and brittle and respond to
large stresses by fracturing. Earthquakes are the agents of brittle rock failure. A fault
is a crack across which the rocks have been offset. They range in size from
micrometers to thousands of kilometers in length and tens of kilometers in depth, but
they are generally much thinner than they are long or deep. In addition to variation in
size and orientation, different faults can accommodate different styles of rock
deformation, such as compression and extension.
Not all faults intersect Earth's surface, and most earthquakes do no rupture the
surface. When a fault does intersect the surface, objects may be offset or the ground
may cracked, or raised, or lowered. We call a rupture of the surface by a fault a fault
scarp and identifying scarps is an important task for assessing the seismic hazards
in any region.

Fault Structure
Although the number of observations of deep fault structure is small, the available
exposed faults provide some information on the deep structure of a fault. A fault
"zone" consists of several smaller regions defined by the style and amount of
deformation within them.

The center of the fault is the most deformed and is where most of the offset or slip
between the surrounding rock occurs. The region can be quite small, about as wide
as a pencil is long, and it is identified by the finely ground rocks called cataclasite
(we call the ground up material found closer to the surface, gouge). From all the
slipping andgrinding, the gouge is composed of very fine-grained material that
resembles clay. Surrounding the central zone is a region several meters across that
contains abundant fractures. Outside that region is another that contains
distinguishable fractures, but much less dense than the preceding region. Last is the
competent "host" rock that marks the end of the fault zone.

Fault Classifications
Active, Inactive, and Reactivated Faults
Active faults are structure along which we expect displacement to occur. By
definition, since a shallow earthquake is a process that produces displacement
across a fault, all shallow earthquakes occur on active faults.
Inactive faults are structures that we can identify, but which do no have
earthquakes. As you can imagine, because of the complexity of earthquake
activity, judging a fault to be inactive can be tricky, but often we can measure the
last time substantial offset occurred across a fault. If a fault has been inactive for
millions of years, it's certainly safe to call it inactive. However, some faults only
have large earthquakes once in thousands of years, and we need to evaluate
carefully their hazard potential.
Reactivated faults form when movement along formerly inactive faults can help
to alleviate strain within the crust or upper mantle. Deformation in the New Madrid
seismic zone in the central United States is a good example of fault reactivation.
Structure formed about 500 Ma ago are responding to a new forces and relieving
strain in the mid-continent.

Faults and Forces

The style of faulting is an indicator of rock deformation and reflects the type of forces
pushing or pulling on the region.
Near Earth's surface, the orientation of these forces are usually oriented such that
one is vertical and the other two are horizontal. The precise direction of the
horizontal forces varies from place to place as does the size of each force.
The style of faulting that is a reflection of the relative size of the different forces - in
particular is the relative size of the vertical to the horizontal forces. There are three
cases to consider, the vertical force can be the smallest, the largest, or the
intermediate (neither smallest or largest). If the vertical force is the largest, we get
normal faulting, if it is the smallest, we get reverse faulting. When the vertical force is
the intermediate force, we get strike-slip faulting.
Normal faulting is indicative of a region that is stretching, and on the continents,
normal faulting usually occurs in regions with relatively high elevation such as
Reverse faulting reflects compressive forces squeezing a region and they are
common in uplifting mountain ranges and along the coast of many regions bordering
the Pacific Ocean. The largest earthquakes are generally low-angle (shallow dipping)
reverse faults associated with "subduction" plate boundaries.
Strike-slip faulting indicates neither extension nor compression, but identifies regions
where rocks are sliding past each other.

Why does the earth shake when there is an earthquake?

While the edges of faults are stuck together, and the rest of the block is
moving, the energy that would normally cause the blocks to slide past one
another is being stored up. When the force of the moving blocks finally
overcomes the friction of the jagged edges of the fault and it unsticks, all that
stored up energy is released. The energy radiates outward from the fault in
all directions in the form of seismic waves like ripples on a pond. The
seismic waves shake the earth as they move through it, and when the waves
reach the earths surface, they shake the ground and anything on it, like our
houses and us! (see P&S Wave inset)

How are earthquakes recorded?

Earthquakes are recorded by
instruments called seismographs. The
recording they make is called a
seismogram. (figure 4) The
seismograph has a base that sets
firmly in the ground, and a heavy
weight that hangs free. When an
earthquake causes the ground to
shake, the base of the seismograph
shakes too, but the hanging weight
does not. Instead the spring or string
that it is hanging from absorbs all the
movement. The difference in position
between the shaking part of the
seismograph and the motionless part is
what is recorded.

How do scientists measure the size of earthquakes?

The size of an earthquake depends on the size of the fault and the amount of
slip on the fault, but thats not something scientists can simply measure with
a measuring tape since faults are many kilometers deep beneath the earths
surface. So how do they measure an earthquake? They use the seismogram
recordings made on the seismographs at the surface of the earth to
determine how large the earthquake was (figure 5). A short wiggly line that
doesnt wiggle very much means a small earthquake, and a long wiggly line
that wiggles a lot means a large earthquake. The length of the wiggle
depends on the size of the fault, and the size of the wiggle depends on the
amount of slip.

The size of the earthquake is called its magnitude. There is one magnitude
for each earthquake. Scientists also talk about the intensity of shaking from
an earthquake, and this varies depending on where you are during the

Measuring Magnitude
seismometer is a machine that records seismic waves. In the past, all
seismometers were seismographs because they produced a graph-like
representation of the seismic waves they received. The paper record is called a
seismogram. Modern seismometers record ground motions using electronic
motion detectors. The data are then kept digitally on a computer.
Seismographs have a pen suspended from a stationary frame, while a drum of
paper rotates beneath it. The pen is weighted so that it is suspended and not
attached to the ground. The drum is attached to the ground. As the earth shakes in
an earthquake, the pen remains stationary but the drum moves beneath it. This
creates the squiggly lines that make up a seismogram

Seismograms contain information on how strong an earthquake was, how long it

lasted, and how far away it was. The wiggly lines that are produced in a
seismogram clearly show the different arrival times of P- and S-waves (Figure
7.40). As with words on a page, the seismogram record goes from left to right.
First, there is a flat line, where there was no ground shaking. The first waves to be
recorded by the seismogram are P-waves since they are the fastest. S-waves
come in next and are usually larger than P-waves. The surface waves arrive just
after the S-waves. If the earthquake has a shallow focus, the surface waves will be
the largest ones recorded.

These seismograms show the arrival of P-waves and S-waves. The surface
waves arrive just after the S-waves and are difficult to distinguish. Time is
indicated on the horizontal portion (or x-axis) of the graph.
If a seismogram has recorded P-waves and surface waves, but not S-waves,
the seismograph was on the other side of the planet from the earthquake.
Scientists know that the earth's outer core is liquid because S-waves cannot
travel through liquid. The liquid outer core creates an S-wave shadow zone on
the opposite side of the planet from the earthquake's focus where no S-waves
reach. The amplitude (height) of the waves can be used to determine the
magnitude of the earthquake. How magnitude is calculated will be discussed in
a later section

How can scientists tell where the earthquake happened?

Seismograms come in handy for locating earthquakes too, and being able to see
the P wave and the S wave is important. You learned how P & S waves each
shake the ground in different ways as they travel through it. P waves are also
faster than S waves, and this fact is what allows us to tell where an earthquake
was. To understand how this works, lets compare P and S waves to lightning and
thunder. Light travels faster than sound, so during a thunderstorm you will first see
the lightning and then you will hear the thunder. If you are close to the lightning,
the thunder will boom right after the lightning, but if you are far away from the
lightning, you can count several seconds before you hear the thunder. The further
you are from the storm, the longer it will take between the lightning and the
P waves are like the lightning, and S waves are like the thunder. The P waves
travel faster and shake the ground where you are first. Then the S waves follow
and shake the ground also. If you are close to the earthquake, the P and S wave
will come one right after the other, but if you are far away, there will be more time
between the two. By looking at the amount of time between the P and S wave on a
seismogram recorded on a seismograph, scientists can tell how far away the
earthquake was from that location. However, they cant tell in what direction from
the seismograph the earthquake was, only how far away it was. If they draw a
circle on a map around the station where the radius of the circle is the determined
distance to the earthquake, they know the earthquake lies somewhere on the
circle. But where?

Stress and Strain

Stress is a force per unit area or a force that acts on a surface.
When I described the types of forces associated with the different styles of
faulting (in the section "Faults and Faulting"), I was describing stresses (the
force per unit area on the fault).
Friction is a stress which resists motion and acts in all natural systems.
For earthquake studies, friction on faults and the orientation and relative
magnitudes of the "regional" stresses that determine the style of faulting are
of primary interest and importance.
Strain is a measure of material deformation such as the amount of
compression when you squeeze or the amount of elongation when you
stretch something.
In elastic deformation the amount of elongation is linearly proportional to
the applied stress, and an elastic material returns to its original shape after
the stress is relieved. Additionally, a strained, elastic material stores the
energy used to deform it, and that energy is recoverable.

Can scientists predict earthquakes?

No, and it is unlikely they will ever be able to predict them. Scientists have tried many
different ways of predicting earthquakes, but none have been successful. On any
particular fault, scientists know there will be another earthquake sometime in the
future, but they have no way of telling when it will happen.
Scientists then use a method called triangulation to determine exactly where the
earthquake was (figure 6). It is called triangulation because a triangle has three sides,
and it takes three seismographs to locate an earthquake. If you draw a circle on a
map around three different seismographs where the radius of each is the distance
from that station to the earthquake, the intersection of those three circles is the

Finding the Epicenter

A single seismogram can tell a seismologist how far away the earthquake
was but it does not provide the seismologist with enough information to
locate the exact epicenter. For that, the seismologist needs at least three
seismograms. Determining distance to an earthquake epicenter depends on
the fact that different seismic waves travel at different speeds. P-waves
always arrive at a seismometer first, but the amount of time it takes for the
S-waves to arrive after the P-wave indicates distance to the epicenter. If the
epicenter is near the seismometer, the P-waves, S-waves and surface waves
will all arrive in rapid succession. If the epicenter is further away, the Swaves will lag further behind. In other words, the longer it is between the
arrival of the P-wave and S-wave from an earthquake, the farther the
epicenter is from the seismometer.
After many years of study, geologists know the speed at which the different
types of waves travel through various earth materials. Based on the
difference in the arrival times of the first P wave and the first S wave,
seismologists determine the distance between the epicenter and a
seismometer. Once the distance to the epicenter is known, scientists can
identify each point that is that distance away. Let's say that they know that
an earthquake's epicenter is 50 kilometers from Kansas City. When each
point that is that distance away from Kansas City is marked, the marks
create a circle. This circle can be drawn with a compass.
To locate the earthquake epicenter, seismologists must have data from at

People have always tried to quantify the size of and damage done by earthquakes.
Early in the 20th century, earthquakes could only be described in terms of what nearby
residents felt and the damage that was done to nearby structures. This was called the
Mercalli Intensity Scale and was developed in 1902 by the Italian seismologist
Giuseppe Mercalli.
There were many problems with the Mercalli scale. What people feel and see in an
earthquake is affected by how far they are from the earthquake's focus, the type of
rock that lies beneath them, the construction type of the nearby buildings, and many
other factors. Different observers will also perceive the experience differently. For
example, one might exaggerate while the other downplays the damage done. With
the Mercalli scale, comparisons between earthquakes are difficult to make.
To address these problems, in 1935 Charles Richter developed his Richter
magnitude scale. The Richter scale measures the magnitude of the largest jolt of
energy released in an earthquake. Because Richter's scale is logarithmic, the
amplitude of the largest wave increases 10 times from one integer to the next. For
example, the amplitude of the largest seismic wave of a magnitude 5 quake is 10
times that of a magnitude 4 quake and 100 times that of a magnitude 3 quake. One
integer increase in magnitude roughly correlates with a 30-fold increase in the amount
of energy released. A difference of two integers on the Richter scale equals a 1,000fold increase in released energy.

Seismologists recognize that the Richter scale has limitations, since it measures the
height of the greatest earthquake wave. A single sharp jolt will measure higher on
the Richter scale than a very long intense earthquake that releases more energy. In
other words, earthquakes that release more energy are likely to do more damage
than those that are short, but have a larger single jolt. Using the Richter scale, a
high magnitude may not necessarily reflect the amount of damage caused.
The moment magnitude scale is the current method of measuring earthquake
magnitudes. This method measures the total energy released by an earthquake and
so more accurately reflects its magnitude. Moment magnitude is calculated from the
area of the fault that is ruptured and the distance the earth moved along the fault.
Like the Richter scale, the moment magnitude scale is logarithmic. An increase in
one integer means that 30 times more energy was released, while two integers
means that 1,000 times the energy was released released. The Richter and moment
magnitude scales often give very similar measurements.
In a single year, more than 900,000 earthquakes are recorded. 150,000 of them are
strong enough to be felt. About 18 per year are major, with a Richter magnitude of
7.0 to 7.9. Each year, on average, one earthquake with a magnitude of 8 to 8.9
strikes. Remember that many of these earthquakes occur deep in the crust and out
in the oceans and do not cause much or any damage on land.

Earthquakes with a magnitude in the 9 range are rare. The United States Geological
Survey lists six such earthquakes on the moment magnitude scale in hi
storic times . All but one of them, the Great Indian Ocean Earthquake of 2004, occurr
ed somewhere around the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The third main hazard is flooding. An earthquake can rupture (break) dams or
levees along a river. The water from the river or the reservoir would then flood the
area, damaging buildings and maybe sweeping away or drowning people.
Tsunamis and seiches can also cause a
great deal of damage. A tsunami is what
most people call a tidal wave, but it has
nothing to do with the tides on the ocean.
It is a huge wave caused by an
earthquake under the ocean. Tsunamis
can be tens of feet high when they hit the
shore and can do enormous damage to
the coastline. Seiches are like small
tsunamis. They occur on lakes that are
shaken by the earthquake and are usually
only a few feet high, but they can still flood
or knock down houses, and tip over trees.

Earthquake Prediction
To be valuable, an earthquake prediction must be accurate. A good predication
would anticipate the date, location, and magnitude of the earthquake. The prediction
would need to be accurate so that authorities could convince people to evacuate. An
unnecessary evacuation would be very expensive and would decrease the credibility
of authorities who might need to evacuate the region at a later time. Unfortunately,
accurate predictions like these are not likely to be common for a long time.
The easiest thing to predict is where an earthquake will occur, Because nearly all
earthquakes take place at plate boundaries, and because earthquakes tend to
happen where theyve occurred before, scientists know which locations are likely to
have earthquakes. This information is useful to communities because those that are
earthquake-prone can prepare for the event. For example, these communities can
implement building codes to make structures earthquake safe. The added work and
expense can be avoided in areas that are not at risk.

Predicting when an earthquake will occur is much more difficult. Scientists can get a
general idea by looking at the historical and geological records of earthquakes in an
area. If stress on a fault builds up at the same rate over time, then earthquakes
should occur at regular intervals. While this is true, there is a large margin of error in
these predictions. Using this method, scientists cannot even be accurate to within a
few years, and evacuation is not practical.
Seismologists have also used the seismic gap theory for long-term earthquake
prediction. In this theory, scientists assume that, on average, all of the rocks on the
same side of a fault move at the same rate. For example, they say that rocks on the
North American plate side of the San Andreas Fault in California move at the same
speed over time. While this may be true, the frequency and magnitude of
earthquakes along the fault is not the same: there are more quakes in the northern
and southern sections, but a relatively inactive zone in the center.
Seismologists attempted to use the seismic gap theory to predict an earthquake in a
seismic gap. Around Parkfield, California earthquakes occur regularly: an
earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or higher occurs about every 22 years. Using this
information, seismologists predicted that a magnitude 6 or greater earthquake would
strike the region in 1993. In the mid-1980s, seismologists with the United States
Geological Survey set up an enormous number of instruments along the Parkfield
section of the San Andreas to monitor the expected earthquake. While they were
right that an earthquake was due in that segment of the fault, they were quite far off
in predicting the earthquakes timing. A magnitude 6.0 quake did not strike Parkfield
until 2004, 11 years late.

Scientists have recognized some indicators that allow them to recognize that a large
earthquake is likely. Large earthquakes are often preceded by small tremors, called
foreshocks, that occur between a few seconds and a few weeks before a major
quake. However, many earthquakes are not preceded by foreshocks and clusters of
small earthquakes are not necessarily followed by a large earthquake.
Large earthquakes are also often preceded by the tilting of the ground surface,
which is caused by the buildup of stress in the rocks. Seismologists measure the
ground tilt and use the changes to predict an impending earthquake. While this
technique has been somewhat successful, it has also been a part of predictions of
earthquakes that never came and has failed to predict some that did. Water levels in
wells fluctuate as water moves into or out of fractures before an earthquake. This
information can also be used as a possible, but uncertain, predictor of large
The most successful earthquake prediction was on February 4, 1975. At the
recommendation of Chinese seismologists, officials evacuated many of the
residents of the Manchurian province of Liaoning. Although the region was not prone
to earthquakes, the seismologists made their prediction because the area
experienced about 400 small foreshocks over a few days. The night of the
evacuation an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck the town and only a few hundred
people died. An estimated 150,000 people may have been saved. However, a little
more than a year later, Chinese seismologists failed to predict the Tangshan
earthquake, which killed more than 250,000 people. One month after that, Chinese
officials evacuated residents of the Guandong Province for an earthquake that never

There is value in predicting the arrival of seismic waves from an earthquake that is
already taking place. Seismometers can detect P-waves a few seconds before more
damaging S-waves and surface waves arrive. Although a few seconds is not much,
a coordinated computerized system can use that time to shut down gas mains and
high tension electrical transmission lines, and initiate protective measures in
chemical plants, nuclear power plants, mass transit systems, airports and on
Folklore tells of animals behaving erratically just before an earthquake. Mostly these
anecdotes are told after the earthquake, when people remember back to the time
before the shaking began. Memories are notoriously faulty. However, Chinese
scientists actively study the behavior of animals before earthquakes to see if there is
something to the anecdotes.
One interesting tale involves the number of animals killed in the 2004 Boxing Day
Tsunami, which appeared to be surprisingly low. Reports abound suggesting that the
animals had a "sixth sense" that warned them of the danger. In Sri Lanka's Yala
National Park, for example, about 60 tourists and park employees drowned but few
large animals. Three elephants were seen fleeing to higher ground. On closer
inspection, the elephants with tracking collars appeared to have exhibited normal
movements for the day. If indeed animals sense danger from earthquakes or
tsunamis, scientists do not know what it is they could be sensing, but they would like
to find out.

Pocket-sized sensors bring earthquake science to schools

These pocket-sized seismic sensors have to be mounted to the floor and connected
to desktop computers or laptops to collect seismic data. For the QCN school project
in Taiwan, they are used to offer local students hands-on learning in geosciences and
cloud computing. Image courtesy Wen-Tzong Liang.
Last year, the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake in Japan illustrated once again the
devastating impact of natural disasters on human lives. But the seismic sensor
stations necessary for detecting earthquakes and improving hazard mitigation come
with a hefty price tag, often costing much more than developing countries can afford.

During the International Symposium on Grids and Clouds 2012 in Taipei

last month, researchers from Taiwan presented a school project aimed at
making science education more accessible to students. Using grid-enabled
software and a cloud-based learning platform, local high school students
are being taught how to use low-cost seismic sensors at school and home
to track earthquakes. The project also collects additional seismic data that
can be used for further seismological research.
"Our goal is to devise a model curriculum that can be used to integrate
geoscience education and cloud computing technology in senior high
school classrooms," said Kate Huihsuan Chen, project leader and
seismologist at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) in Taipei.
Funded by the National Science Council in Taiwan, the project is also led
by science educator Chun-Yen Chang from NTNU, seismologist Wen-Tzong
Liang from Academia Sinica's Institute of Earth Sciences (IES), and Eric
Yen from the Academia Sinica Grid Computing Center (ASGC).

Grid-enabled earthquake science

The project is based on the Quake-Catcher Network (QCN), a distributed
computing network initiated by Stanford University and University of
California, Riverside that links individual computers into a real-time motion
sensing network. While a number of newer laptops come equipped with
internal accelerators that can be used to detect earthquakes, desktop
computers and older laptops need to be connected via USB cable to
external microelectromechanical sensors (MEMS) that are mounted to the

The Circulations
Convection currents develop in the viscous Mantle, because of prevailing
high temperature and pressure gradients between the Crust and the
Core, like the convective flow of water when heated in a beaker (Figure
2). The energy for the above circulations is derived from the heat
produced from the incessant decay of radioactive elements in the rocks
throughout the Earths interior. These convection currents result in a
circulation of the earths mass; hot molten lava comes out and the cold
rock mass goes into the Earth. The mass absorbed eventually melts
under high temperature and pressure and becomes a part of the Mantle,
only to come out again from another location, someday. Many such local
circulations are taking place at different regions underneath the Earths
surface, leading to different portions of the Earth undergoing different
an ocean current that flows from
of movements
along the surface
west to east around Antarctica, plays a crucial role in global ocean
circulation. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (21,000 km in length) is
the worlds largest ocean current, transporting 130 million cubic meters
of water per second 100 times the flow of all the worlds rivers. The
region where the cold waters of the ACC meet and mingle with the
warmer waters of the north defines a distinct border the Antarctic
Convergence which fluctuates with the seasons, but which
encompasses a discrete body of water and a unique ecologic region.


Trying to move during shaking puts you at risk: Earthquakes occur without
any warning and may be so violent that you cannot run or crawl; you therefore
will most likely be knocked to the ground where you happen to be. So it is best
to drop before the earthquake drops you, and find nearby shelter or use your
arms and hands to protect your head and neck. "Drop, Cover, and Hold On"
gives you the best overall chance of quickly protecting yourself during an
earthquake... even during quakes that cause furniture to move about rooms,
and even in buildings that might ultimately collapse.
The greatest danger is from falling and flying objects:

Studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes over

the last several decades show that you are much more
likely to be injured by falling or flying objects (TVs, lamps,
glass, bookcases, etc.) than to die in a collapsed building.
"Drop, Cover, and Hold On" (as described above) will
protect you from most of these injuries.

If there is no furniture nearby, you can still reduce the chance of

injury from falling objects by getting down next to an interior wall
and covering your head and neck with your arms (exterior walls
are more likely to collapse and have windows that may break). If
you are in bed, the best thing to do is to stay there and cover your
head with a pillow. Studies of injuries in earthquakes show that
people who moved from their beds would not have been injured if
they had remained in bed.
You can also reduce your chance of injury or damage to your
belongings by securing them in the first place. Secure top heavy
furniture to walls with flexible straps. Use earthquake putty or
Velcro fasteners for objects on tables, shelves, or other furniture.
Install safety latches on cabinets to keep them closed. Instructions
for how to "secure your space" are at
Building collapse is less of a danger: While images of collapsed structures in
earthquakes around the world are frightening and get the most attention from the
media, most buildings do not collapse at all, and few completely collapse. In
earthquake prone areas of the U.S. and in many other countries, strict building
codes have worked to greatly reduce the potential of structure collapse. However,
there is the possibility of structural failure in certain building types, especially
unreinforced masonry (brick buildings), and in certain structures constructed before
the latest building codes.

The main goal of "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" is to protect you from falling and
flying debris and other nonstructural hazards, and to increase the chance of your
ending up in a Survivable Void Space if the building actually collapses. The space
under a sturdy table or desk is likely to remain even if the building collapsespictures from around the world show tables and desks standing with rubble all
around them, and even holding up floors that have collapsed. Experienced
rescuers agree that successfully predicting other safe locations in advance is nearly
impossible, as where these voids will be depends on the direction of the shaking
and many other factors. (See "triangle of life" below.)
The ONLY exception to the "Drop, Cover and Hold On" rule is if you are in a
country with unengineered construction, and if you are on the ground floor of an
unreinforced mud-brick (adobe) building, with a heavy ceiling. In that case, you
should try to move quickly outside to an open space. This cannot be recommended
as a substitute for building earthquake-resistant structures in the first place!


Based on years of research about how people are injured or killed during
earthquakes, and the experiences of U.S. and international search and rescue
teams, these three actions are not recommended to protect yourself during
DO NOT run outside or to other rooms during shaking: The area near the
exterior walls of a building is the most dangerous place to be. Windows, facades
and architectural details are often the first parts of the building to collapse. To stay
away from this danger zone, stay inside if you are inside and outside if you are
outside. Also, shaking can be so strong that you will not be able to move far without
falling down, and objects may fall or be thrown at you that you do not expect.
Injuries can be avoided if you drop to the ground before the earthquake drops you.
DO NOT stand in a doorway: An enduring earthquake image of California is a
collapsed adobe home with the door frame as the only standing part. From this
came our belief that a doorway is the safest place to be during an earthquake. Trueif you live in an old, unreinforced adobe house or some older woodframe houses. In
modern houses, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house, and the
doorway does not protect you from the most likely source of injury- falling or flying
objects. You also may not be able to brace yourself in the door during strong
shaking. You are safer under a table.

DO NOT get in the "triangle of life": In recent years, an e-mail has been
circulating which describes an alternative to the long-established "Drop, Cover, and
Hold On" advice. The so-called "triangle of life" and some of the other actions
recommended in the e-mail are potentially life threatening, and the credibility of the
source of these recommendations has been broadly questioned (see links at left).
The "triangle of life" advice (always get next to a table rather than underneath it) is
based on several wrong assumptions:
1) buildings always collapse in earthquakes (wrong- especially in developed
nations, and flat "pancake" collapse is rare anywhere);
2) when buildings collapse they always crush all furniture inside (wrong- people
DO survive under furniture or other shelters);
3) people can always anticipate how their building might collapse and anticipate
the location of survivable void spaces (wrong- the direction of shaking and unique
structural aspects of the building make this nearly impossible) ;
4)during strong shaking people can move to a desired location (wrong- strong
shaking can make moving very difficult and dangerous).
X (C)