10 Interesting facts about Earthquakes

Like volcanoes, hurricanes and tornadoes, earthquakes have the capacity to wreak devastation and cause tremendous loss of life, and when an earthquake strikes, it is a sharp reminder that nature is infinitely more powerful than man. But aside from the fact that earthquakes can be killers, what are other interesting facts about earthquakes?

1. The most devastating earthquake ever recorded hit China in 1556. Way back then there was no way of measuring the strength of earthquakes, but since more than 830,000 people lost their lives it was certainly a powerful quake.

2. Modern earthquakes are measured by seismographs and the Richter scale and the most powerful earthquake in modern times occurred in Chile in 1960—it measured 9.5 on a seismograph and was twice as powerful as the next most powerful earthquake: an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2 hit Prince William Sound in Alaska on Good Friday, 1964.

A seismograph measures seismic waves that can predict an upcoming earthquake

3. Powerful earthquakes do not necessarily cause the most loss of life. Earthquake related death tolls are often dependent on other factors, for example whether the earthquake strikes in a heavily populated area or it causes a tsunami wave. More lives also tend to be lost when earthquakes hit poorer countries as they often have badly constructed homes and buildings.

4. When a powerful earthquake ruptures the ocean bed, it can cause a massive displacement of water that leads to a tsunami. A good example of the kind of devastation tsunamis can cause is the Boxing Day tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people in the Indian Ocean in 2004.

5. Soil liquefaction is an interesting phenomenon caused by earthquakes. As the ground shakes and shudders, sand based materials temporarily transform into a liquid, which can cause large structures to collapse and sink into the ground.

6. Earthquakes can also occur on the moon, but they tend to be less frequent and are usually not as powerful. They also occur at a much deeper level than earthquakes experienced on Planet Earth.

7. Earthquake swarms are a series of earthquakes affecting a particular area within a very short space of time—they are distinctly different to one large earthquake followed some hours later by a series of aftershocks.

San Andreas Fault

8. The San Andreas Fault in California is an area of constant seismic activity. Experts estimate the range of movement across the fault line in any given year to be around 56mm, which means the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles will end up next door to each other in around 15 million years.

9. More than 10,000 earthquakes affect the state of California every year, but whilst that might sound very alarming to those who do not live there, the vast majority of the quakes cannot be felt because they are so small.

10. The safest place to live in the United States if you are hoping to avoid being affected by earthquakes is either Florida and North Dakota—both of these states experience far fewer earthquakes than any other place in the US.

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