ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • Geography, Nature & Weather

What causes an earthquake?

Updated on February 20, 2012

Earthquake facts

  • There are more than one million earthquakes a year
  • Tectonic plates float on soft rock and are always moving
  • The plates rub against each other which causes friction and pressure
  • Plates slip and cause a jolt that we feel it as a sudden earthquake

Three boys walk with their father through streets ruined by an earthquake that struck Gunung Sitoli on Nias Island, Indonesia, in March 2005
Three boys walk with their father through streets ruined by an earthquake that struck Gunung Sitoli on Nias Island, Indonesia, in March 2005

What causes an earthquake?

Tectonic plates are floating on a bed of soft magma and rock below the earth's crust. Sometimes they move away from each other and sometimes they go towards another plate. When the plates touch they may rub against each other which causes friction.

This diagram shows the different tectonic plates on Earth. They are constantly moving and responsible for earthquakes
This diagram shows the different tectonic plates on Earth. They are constantly moving and responsible for earthquakes

The pressure builds up until one of the plates may no longer be able to withstand the force. The weaker plate slips out of position. It may even crack in places. Humans on the earth's surface feel this sudden movement and it is known as an earthquake.

The movement of the earth's crust is called seismic waves. The size of these seismic waves is measured on the Richter Scale.

Buildings destroyed by an earthquake that struck Beichuan in Sichuan Province, China, in May 2008
Buildings destroyed by an earthquake that struck Beichuan in Sichuan Province, China, in May 2008
Chinese soldiers walk over collapsed buildings in search of earthquake victims in Beichuan, China, in May, 2008
Chinese soldiers walk over collapsed buildings in search of earthquake victims in Beichuan, China, in May, 2008
A man looks over apartments destroyed by an earthquake in Beichuan county, Mianyang city, Sichuan province, China, in May, 2008
A man looks over apartments destroyed by an earthquake in Beichuan county, Mianyang city, Sichuan province, China, in May, 2008

How long do earthquakes last?

Earthquakes usually only last for a few seconds. However, earthquakes are often followed by a series of aftershocks. These are caused by the continued moving of the plates pushing against each other as they settle into their new positions. Aftershocks are never usually as powerful as the initial earthquake.

Sometimes where earthquakes happen below the sea they cause a tsunami.

What are the effects of an earthquake?

Earthquakes happen regularly and are fairly common in areas that lie on fault lines - the places where tectonic plates meet. One such area is Japan. The country may feel several earthquakes a year. However, the buildings have been designed to withstand minor tremors.

Earthquakes cause problems when they are very powerful. The force of the seismic waves causes buildings to shake. Sometimes the buildings will collapse. Over the years, many thousands of people have been killed when earthquakes have caused buildings to fall down.

A road in Asia is snapped by the force of a recent earthquake
A road in Asia is snapped by the force of a recent earthquake
Homes teeter on the edge of a cliff after an earthquake rocked this mountain village
Homes teeter on the edge of a cliff after an earthquake rocked this mountain village

Was the Japan 2011 earthquake caused by a supermoon

The earthquake that struck off the north east coast of Japan in March 2011 caused a killer tsunami that devastated the country.

But was the initial earthquake caused by a supermoon?

Experts had been warning just two days earlier that the movement of the moon could trigger unpredictable events and natural disasters on Earth.

The theory was that on March 19 the moon would be at its closest to the earth since 1922, some 221,567 miles away to be precise. They claimed that the gravitational pull of the moon would cause disruption on the earth.

The theory was giving added weight because only a few weeks earlier an earthquake had killed hundreds of people are destroyed buildings when it hit Christchurch in New Zealand.

Astrologer Richard Nolle first developed the supermoon theory in 1979.

He said that supermoons have a historical association with strong storms, very high tides, extreme tides and also earthquakes.

Scientists have, of course, dismissed the supermoon theories as nonsense, pointing out that Japan and New Zealand both have long histories of earthquakes and natural disasters.

January 2010

An earthquake hits Haiti in the Caribbean. It wrecked the nation, and it's thought to have killed between 100,000 and 200,000 people. Countless buildings were devastated and 1.5 million individuals were made homeless. Troops and support had to be sent in to help the recovery

April 2009

Around 150 individuals lost their lives in Italy when a quake struck in a metropolis called L'Aquila. More than 50,000 individuals were made homeless by the tremor.

May 2008

Around 87,000 people are thought to have died in China by when a quake struck the Sichuan region of the nation. Some five million homes were obliterated in the shudder which measured 7.5 on the Richter scale, and was the largest to strike the nation for 30 years.

August 2007

More than 450 individuals recorded dead in Peru by a tremor measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale.

May 2006

More than 3,000 people were left dead by a seismic tremor that struck the Indonesian island of Java. Something greater than 200,000 people were made homeless by the quake, which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale.

December 2004

The death count rose to 300,000 when a quake in the Indian Ocean measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale caused a colossal tsunami to hit some Asian nations. The worst affected nations were Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

December 2003

An estimated 50,000 people were killed after a tremor in Iran, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.

May 2003

Over 1,000 folks are killed and practically 7,000 harmed in a shake in Algeria, which measured 6.7 on the Richter scale.

March 2002

Thousands lost their lives in a remote part of Afghanistan when a tremor measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale struck.

January 2001

Thirty-thousand individuals died and around 50,000 were seriously injured by an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale in Gujarat, India.

January 2001

More than 1,000 residents died in a 7.2 quake in El Salvador.

Video: Earthquake causes

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Kate 5 years ago

      The New Madrid fault line is fun in bad

    • Rickrideshorses profile image
      Author

      Rickrideshorses 6 years ago from England

      Anytime dilipchandra12, glad you enjoyed.

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 6 years ago from India

      Handy useful information. Interesting aswell. Thanks for sharing :)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)