How Earthquakes Occur

Experiencing earthquakes has been a very frightening encounter for many of us. When you feel earth’s shaking, your only wish is for it to stop and not do more damage to many. Aside from being horrified by the experience, the after effects of earthquake is something that is very alarming just like the occurrence of tsunamis. You hear of appalling stories how one place can be brought to devastation in a snap because of earthquakes. But regardless how we hope that it won’t happen again, the occurrence of earthquakes is something that we are not in control of. It can happen anytime and hit places lying within the fault lines.


What Causes Earthquakes

The earth is made up of three main layers, the crust, mantle and innermost core. The crust and upper mantle forms the lithosphere which is a strong layer. This lithosphere is divided into tectonic plates.  These plates move very slowly and any significant changes can be felt after thousands of years. The movement of these tectonic plates is of the same speed but can be in different directions. When two plates collide against each other, rock layers are pushed upward hence the formation of mountains. Plates can move away from one another. And if this happens, lava coming from the mantle fills in the gap and forms a new crust.  Over time, with the slow movement of these plates, they can converge and the plates are positioned over the other.

Tectonic plates found in ocean are called oceanic plates while those found in continents are continental plates. With the movement of these tectonic plates, energy is formed and can be released once these plates meet in the so called fault line. The intensity of this released energy will also determine that of the earthquake. One can feel the earth’s shaking once energy is released from earth’s crust.

For earthquakes to occur, energy is released from a focal point. This point is called the epicenter and usually found at shallow depths from the earth’s surface. From the epicenter, seismic waves is produced and sent out to all directions. Seismic waves then travels at varying speed depending on the kind of material they go through.

Impact Of Earthquakes

Seismic waves continue to travel and move through the earth’s crust. Its impact to the crust will depend on how far the seismic waves have traveled from the epicenter. The farther they have moved from the focal point, the more these waves lose their strength and cease. The energy caused by these seismic waves will cause the effects of earthquakes like the shaking of the earth’s surface. The energy produced by the seismic waves will determine the strength of the shaking of the earth. Mild earthquakes can cause damage but not as much as created by a very powerful earthquake which can crush high rise building and homes. Seismic waves that are strong can even create a rumbling noise while shaking the earth which is very terrifying.

People living near the fault line can expect earthquake to happen anytime. They should understand also that earthquakes can do major damage and even take away lives when a very strong shaking occurs. And so it is important that you know the community that you are living and refer to the geological mapping to determine if your area lies within the fault line. Despite of different efforts done by scientists to look into the possibility of predicting earthquakes, the result is still gray and natural disasters like earthquake can happen anytime without us knowing it ahead of time.

How Are Earthquakes Measured

Earthquakes are measured by the amount of force or energy they produced. This done through Richter scale. This tool was developed by Charles F. Richter of the California Institute of Technology. Many times you must have heard or read about this tool in news or internet. Richter scale uses the information produced through seismograph to calculate the magnitude of the earthquake.


Magnitude of an earthquake gives you an idea of the effect of an earthquake. Earthquakes occurring above 7 on Richter scale are known to have much devastating effect and can cause severe damage to life and property. Earthquakes occurring below 3 on Richter scale can’t be felt. Earthquakes occurring between 3 and 6 are said to be of mild type. Countries like Japan are prone to earthquakes as they come in high seismic zone. When an earthquakes occurs in sea, it paves way for Tsunami. One of the most devastating Tsunami occurred in Indian Ocean on Dec. 26th 2004.

Can Earthquakes Be Predicted

Till date, scientists have not been able to predict earthquakes. Many modern techniques have been used, unfortunately none of them has worked. Is any such toll is built to predict earthquakes, many lives could be saved in future.

The only thing that you can do is to educate yourself about earthquake management and be vigilant in times disasters. You can also do precautionary measures by buying properties which are not located in known earthquake-prone areas or fault lines. The occurrence of earthquake can happen anytime and we will never be ready for it and the imminent danger it brings. But with earthquake preparedness measures and awareness, it can make you alert and quick in making sound decisions in times of danger.



Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.