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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor, or temblor) is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes are recorded with a seismometer, also known as a seismograph. The moment magnitude (or the related and mostly obsolete Richter magnitude) of an earthquake is conventionally reported, with magnitude 3 or lower earthquakes being mostly imperceptible and magnitude 7 causing serious damage over large areas. Intensity of shaking is measured on the modified Mercalli scale.

At the Earth's surface, earthquakes manifest themselves by shaking and sometimes displacing the ground. When a large earthquake epicenter is located offshore, the seabed sometimes suffers sufficient displacement to cause a tsunami. The shaking in earthquakes can also trigger landslides and occasionally volcanic activity.

In its most generic sense, the word earthquake is used to describe any seismic event — whether a natural phenomenon or an event caused by humans — that generates seismic waves. Earthquakes are caused mostly by rupture of geological faults, but also by volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts, and nuclear experiments. An earthquake's point of initial rupture is called its focus or hypocenter. The term epicenter refers to the point at ground level directly above the hypocenter.

Global earthquake epicenters, 1963–1998
Global plate tectonic movement


Naturally occurring earthquakes

Fault types

Tectonic earthquakes will occur anywhere within the earth where there is sufficient stored elastic strain energy to drive fracture propagation along a fault plane. In the case of transform or convergent type plate boundaries, which form the largest fault surfaces on earth, they will move past each other smoothly and aseismically only if there are no irregularities or asperities along the boundary that increase the frictional resistance. Most boundaries do have such asperities and this leads to a form of stick-slip behaviour. Once the boundary has locked, continued relative motion between the plates leads to increasing stress and therefore, stored strain energy in the volume around the fault surface. This continues until the stress has risen sufficiently to break through the asperity, suddenly allowing sliding over the locked portion of the fault, releasing the stored energy. This energy is released as a combination of radiated elastic strain seismic waves, frictional heating of the fault surface, and cracking of the rock, thus causing an earthquake. This process of gradual build-up of strain and stress punctuated by occasional sudden earthquake failure is referred to as the Elastic-rebound theory. It is estimated that only 10 percent or less of an earthquake's total energy is radiated as seismic energy. Most of the earthquake's energy is used to power the earthquake fracture growth or is converted into heat generated by friction. Therefore, earthquakes lower the Earth's available elastic potential energy and raise its temperature, though these changes are negligible compared to the conductive and convective flow of heat out from the Earth's deep interior.[1]

Earthquake fault types

There are three main types of fault that may cause an earthquake: normal, reverse (thrust) and strike-slip. Normal and reverse faulting are examples of dip-slip, where the displacement along the fault is in the direction of dip and movement on them involves a vertical component. Normal faults occur mainly in areas where the crust is being extended such as a divergent boundary. Reverse faults occur in areas where the crust is being shortened such as at a convergent boundary. Strike-slip faults are steep structures where the two sides of the fault slip horizontally past each other ; transform boundaries are a particular type of strike-slip fault. Many earthquakes are caused by movement on faults that have components of both dip-slip and strike-slip; this is known as oblique slip.

Earthquakes away from plate boundaries

Where plate boundaries occur within continental lithosphere, deformation is spread out over a much larger area than the plate boundary itself. In the case of the San Andreas fault continental transform, many earthquakes occur away from the plate boundary and are related to strains developed within the broader zone of deformation caused by major irregularities in the fault trace (e.g. the “Big bend” region). The Northridge earthquake was associated with movement on a blind thrust within such a zone. Another example is the strongly oblique convergent plate boundary between the Arabian and Eurasian plates where it runs through the northwestern part of the Zagros mountains. The deformation associated with this plate boundary is partitioned into nearly pure thrust sense movements perpendicular to the boundary over a wide zone to the southwest and nearly pure strike-slip motion along the Main Recent Fault close to the actual plate boundary itself. This is demonstrated by earthquake focal mechanisms.[2]

All tectonic plates have internal stress fields caused by their interactions with neighbouring plates and sedimentary loading or unloading (e.g. deglaciation). These stresses may be sufficient to cause failure along existing fault planes, giving rise to intraplate earthquakes.[3]

Shallow-focus and deep-focus earthquakes

The majority of tectonic earthquakes originate at the ring of fire in depths not exceeding tens of kilometers. Earthquakes occurring at a depth of less than 70 km are classified as 'shallow-focus' earthquakes, while those with a focal-depth between 70 and 300 km are commonly termed 'mid-focus' or 'intermediate-depth' earthquakes. In subduction zones, where older and colder oceanic crust descends beneath another tectonic plate, deep-focus earthquakes may occur at much greater depths (ranging from 300 up to 700 kilometers).[4] These seismically active areas of subduction are known as Wadati-Benioff zones. Deep-focus earthquakes occur at a depth at which the subducted lithosphere should no longer be brittle, due to the high temperature and pressure. A possible mechanism for the generation of deep-focus earthquakes is faulting caused by olivine undergoing a phase transition into a spinel structure.[5]

Earthquakes and volcanic activity

Earthquakes often occur in volcanic regions and are caused there, both by tectonic faults and the movement of magma in volcanoes. Such earthquakes can serve as an early warning of volcanic eruptions, like during the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980.[6] Earthquake swarms can serve as markers for the location of the flowing magma throughout the volcanoes. These swarms can be recorded by seismometers and tiltimeters (a device which measures the ground slope) and used as sensors to predict imminent or upcoming eruptions.[7]

Earthquake clusters

Most earthquakes form part of a sequence, related to each other in terms of location and time.[8] Most earthquake clusters consist of small tremors which cause little to no damage, but there is a theory that earthquakes can recur in a regular pattern.[9]


An aftershock is an earthquake that occurs after a previous earthquake, the mainshock. An aftershock is in the same region of the main shock but always of a smaller magnitude. If an aftershock is larger than the main shock, the aftershock is redesignated as the main shock and the original main shock is redesignated as a foreshock. Aftershocks are formed as the crust around the displaced fault plane adjusts to the effects of the main shock.[8]

Earthquake swarms

February 2008 earthquake swarm near Mexicali

Earthquake swarms are sequences of earthquakes striking in a specific area within a short period of time. They are different from earthquakes followed by a series of aftershocks by the fact that no single earthquake in the sequence is obviously the main shock, therefore none have notable higher magnitudes than the other. An example of an earthquake swarm is the 2004 activity at Yellowstone National Park.[10]

Earthquake storms

Sometimes a series of earthquakes occur in a sort of earthquake storm, where the earthquakes strike a fault in clusters, each triggered by the shaking or stress redistribution of the previous earthquakes. Similar to aftershocks but on adjacent segments of fault, these storms occur over the course of years, and with some of the later earthquakes as damaging as the early ones. Such a pattern was observed in the sequence of about a dozen earthquakes that struck the North Anatolian Fault in Turkey in the 20th century and has been inferred for older anomalous clusters of large earthquakes in the Middle East.[11][12]

Size and frequency of occurrence

Minor earthquakes occur nearly constantly around the world in places like California and Alaska in the U.S., as well as in Guatemala. Chile, Peru, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, the Azores in Portugal, Turkey, New Zealand, Greece, Italy, and Japan, but earthquakes can occur almost anywhere, including New York City, London, and Australia.[13] Larger earthquakes occur less frequently, the relationship being exponential; for example, roughly ten times as many earthquakes larger than magnitude 4 occur in a particular time period than earthquakes larger than magnitude 5. In the (low seismicity) United Kingdom, for example, it has been calculated that the average recurrences are: an earthquake of 3.7 - 4.6 every year, an earthquake of 4.7 - 5.5 every 10 years, and an earthquake of 5.6 or larger every 100 years.[14] This is an example of the Gutenberg-Richter law.

The Messina earthquake and tsunami took as many as 200,000 lives on December 28, 1908 in Sicily and Calabria.[15]

The number of seismic stations has increased from about 350 in 1931 to many thousands today. As a result, many more earthquakes are reported than in the past, but this is because of the vast improvement in instrumentation, rather than an increase in the number of earthquakes. The USGS estimates that, since 1900, there have been an average of 18 major earthquakes (magnitude 7.0-7.9) and one great earthquake (magnitude 8.0 or greater) per year, and that this average has been relatively stable.[16] In recent years, the number of major earthquakes per year has decreased, although this is thought likely to be a statistical fluctuation rather than a systematic trend. More detailed statistics on the size and frequency of earthquakes is available from the USGS.[17]

Most of the world's earthquakes (90%, and 81% of the largest) take place in the 40,000-km-long, horseshoe-shaped zone called the circum-Pacific seismic belt, also known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, which for the most part bounds the Pacific Plate.[18][19] Massive earthquakes tend to occur along other plate boundaries, too, such as along the Himalayan Mountains.

With the rapid growth of mega-cities such as Mexico City, Tokyo and Tehran, in areas of high seismic risk, some seismologists are warning that a single quake may claim the lives of up to 3 million people.[20]

Induced seismicity

While most earthquakes are caused by movement of the Earth's tectonic plates, human activity can also produce earthquakes. Four main activities contribute to this phenomenon: constructing large dams and buildings, drilling and injecting liquid into wells, and by coal mining and oil drilling.[21] Perhaps the best known example is the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China's Sichuan Province in May; this tremor resulted in 69,227 fatalities and is the 19th deadliest earthquake of all time. The Zipingpu Dam is believed to have fluctuated the pressure of the fault 1,650 feet (503 m) away; this pressure probably increased the power of the earthquake and accelerated the rate of movement for the fault.[22] The greatest earthquake in Australia's history was also induced by humanity, through coal mining. The city of Newcastle was built over a large sector of coal mining areas. The earthquake was spawned from a fault which reactivated due to the millions of tonnes of rock removed in the mining process.[23]

Measuring and locating earthquakes

Earthquakes can be recorded by seismometers up to great distances, because seismic waves travel through the whole Earth's interior. The absolute magnitude of a quake is conventionally reported by numbers on the Moment magnitude scale (formerly Richter scale, magnitude 7 causing serious damage over large areas), whereas the felt magnitude is reported using the modified Mercalli scale (intensity II-XII).

Every tremor produces different types of seismic waves which travel through rock with different velocities: the longitudinal P-waves (shock- or pressure waves), the transverse S-waves (both body waves) and several surface waves (Rayleigh and Love waves). The propagation velocity of the seismic waves ranges from approx. 3 km/s up to 13 km/s, depending on the density and elasticity of the medium. In the Earth's interior the shock- or P waves travel much faster than the S waves (approx. relation 1.7 : 1). The differences in travel time from the epicentre to the observatory are a measure of the distance and can be used to image both sources of quakes and structures within the Earth. Also the depth of the hypocenter can be computed roughly.

In solid rock P-waves travel at about 6 to 7 km per second; the velocity increases within the deep mantle to ~13 km/s. The velocity of S-waves ranges from 2–3 km/s in light sediments and 4–5 km/s in the Earth's crust up to 7 km/s in the deep mantle. As a consequence, the first waves of a distant earth quake arrive at an observatory via the Earth's mantle.

Rule of thumb: On the average, the kilometer distance to the earthquake is the number of seconds between the P and S wave times 8 [1]. Slight deviations are caused by inhomogenities of subsurface structure. By such analyses of seismograms the Earth's core was located in 1913 by Beno Gutenberg.

Effects/impacts of earthquakes

1755 copper engraving depicting Lisbon in ruins and in flames after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which killed an estimated 60,000 people. A tsunami overwhelms the ships in the harbor.

The effects of earthquakes include, but are not limited to, the following:

Shaking and ground rupture

Shaking and ground rupture are the main effects created by earthquakes, principally resulting in more or less severe damage to buildings and other rigid structures. The severity of the local effects depends on the complex combination of the earthquake magnitude, the distance from the epicenter, and the local geological and geomorphological conditions, which may amplify or reduce wave propagation.[24] The ground-shaking is measured by ground acceleration.

Specific local geological, geomorphological, and geostructural features can induce high levels of shaking on the ground surface even from low-intensity earthquakes. This effect is called site or local amplification. It is principally due to the transfer of the seismic motion from hard deep soils to soft superficial soils and to effects of seismic energy focalization owing to typical geometrical setting of the deposits.

Ground rupture is a visible breaking and displacement of the Earth's surface along the trace of the fault, which may be of the order of several metres in the case of major earthquakes. Ground rupture is a major risk for large engineering structures such as dams, bridges and nuclear power stations and requires careful mapping of existing faults to identify any likely to break the ground surface within the life of the structure.[25]

Landslides and avalanches

Earthquakes, along with severe storms, volcanic activity, coastal wave attack, and wildfires, can produce slope instability leading to landslides, a major geological hazard. Landslide danger may persist while emergency personnel are attempting rescue.[26]


Earthquakes can cause fires by damaging electrical power or gas lines. In the event of water mains rupturing and a loss of pressure, it may also become difficult to stop the spread of a fire once it has started. For example, more deaths in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake were caused by fire than by the earthquake itself.[27]

Soil liquefaction

Soil liquefaction occurs when, because of the shaking, water-saturated granular material (such as sand) temporarily loses its strength and transforms from a solid to a liquid. Soil liquefaction may cause rigid structures, like buildings and bridges, to tilt or sink into the liquefied deposits. This can be a devastating effect of earthquakes. For example, in the 1964 Alaska earthquake, soil liquefaction caused many buildings to sink into the ground, eventually collapsing upon themselves.[28]


The tsunami of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

Tsunamis are long-wavelength, long-period sea waves produced by the sudden or abrupt movement of large volumes of water. In the open ocean the distance between wave crests can surpass 100 kilometers, and the wave periods can vary from five minutes to one hour. Such tsunamis travel 600-800 kilometers per hour, depending on water depth. Large waves produced by an earthquake or a submarine landslide can overrun nearby coastal areas in a matter of minutes. Tsunamis can also travel thousands of kilometers across open ocean and wreak destruction on far shores hours after the earthquake that generated them.[29]

Ordinarily, subduction earthquakes under magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale do not cause tsunamis, although some instances of this have been recorded. Most destructive tsunamis are caused by earthquakes of magnitude 7.5 or more.[29]


A flood is an overflow of any amount of water that reaches land.[30] Floods occur usually when the volume of water within a body of water, such as a river or lake, exceeds the total capacity of the formation, and as a result some of the water flows or sits outside of the normal perimeter of the body. However, floods may be secondary effects of earthquakes, if dams are damaged. Earthquakes may cause landslips to dam rivers, which then collapse and cause floods.[31]

The terrain below the Sarez Lake in Tajikistan is in danger of catastrophic flood if the landslide dam formed by the earthquake, known as the Usoi Dam, were to fail during a future earthquake. Impact projections suggest the flood could affect roughly 5 million people.[32]

Tidal forces

Research work has shown a robust correlation between small tidally induced forces and non-volcanic tremor activity.[33][34][35][36]

Human impacts

Damaged infrastructure, one week after the 2007 Peru earthquake

Earthquakes may lead to disease, lack of basic necessities, loss of life, higher insurance premiums, general property damage, road and bridge damage, and collapse or destabilization (potentially leading to future collapse) of buildings. Earthquakes can also precede volcanic eruptions, which cause further problems; for example, substantial crop damage, as in the "Year Without a Summer" (1816).[37]

Major earthquakes


In order to determine the likelihood of future seismic activity, geologists and other scientists examine the rock of an area to determine if the rock appears to be "strained". Studying the faults of an area to study the buildup time it takes for the fault to build up stress sufficient for an earthquake also serves as an effective prediction technique.[38] Measurements of the amount of accumulated strain energy on the fault each year, time passed since the last major temblor, and the energy and power of the last earthquake are made.[38] Together the facts allow scientists to determine how much pressure it takes for the fault to generate an earthquake. Though this method is useful, it has only been implemented on California's San Andreas Fault.[38]

Today, there are ways to protect and prepare possible sites of earthquakes from severe damage, through the following processes: earthquake engineering, earthquake preparedness, household seismic safety, seismic retrofit (including special fasteners, materials, and techniques), seismic hazard, mitigation of seismic motion, and earthquake prediction. Seismic retrofitting is the modification of existing structures to make them more resistant to seismic activity, ground motion, or soil failure due to earthquakes. With better understanding of seismic demand on structures and with our recent experiences with large earthquakes near urban centers, the need of seismic retrofitting is well acknowledged. Prior to the introduction of modern seismic codes in the late 1960s for developed countries (US, Japan etc) and late 1970s for many other parts of the world (Turkey, China etc),[39], many structures were designed without adequate detailing and reinforcement for seismic protection. In view of the imminent problem, various research work has been carried out. Furthermore, state-of-the-art technical guidelines for seismic assessment, retrofit and rehabilitation have been published around the world - such as the ASCE-SEI 41 [40] and the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE)'s guidelines [41].


An image from a 1557 book

Pre-Middle Ages

From the lifetime of the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras in the 5th century BCE to the 14th century CE, earthquakes were usually attributed to "air (vapors) in the cavities of the Earth".[42] Thales of Miletus, who lived from 625-547 (BCE) was the only documented person who believed that earthquakes were caused by tension between the earth and water.[42] Other theories existed, including the Greek philosopher Anaxamines' (585-526 BCE) beliefs that short incline episodes of dryness and wetness caused seismic activity. The Greek philosopher Democritus (460-371BCE) blamed water in general for earthquakes.[42] Pliny the Elder called earthquakes "underground thunderstorms".[42]

Earthquakes in culture

Mythology and religion

In Norse mythology, earthquakes were explained as the violent struggling of the god Loki. When Loki, god of mischief and strife, murdered Baldr, god of beauty and light, he was punished by being bound in a cave with a poisonous serpent placed above his head dripping venom. Loki's wife Sigyn stood by him with a bowl to catch the poison, but whenever she had to empty the bowl the poison would drip on Loki's face, forcing him to jerk his head away and thrash against his bonds, causing the earth to tremble.[43]

In Greek mythology, Poseidon was the cause and god of earthquakes. When he was in a bad mood, he would strike the ground with a trident, causing this and other calamities. He also used earthquakes to punish and inflict fear upon people as revenge.[44]

In Japanese mythology, Namazu (鯰) is a giant catfish who causes earthquakes. Namazu lives in the mud beneath the earth, and is guarded by the god Kashima who restrains the fish with a stone. When Kashima lets his guard fall, Namazu thrashes about, causing violent earthquakes.

Popular culture

In modern popular culture, the portrayal of earthquakes is shaped by the memory of great cities laid waste, such as Kobe in 1995 or San Francisco in 1906.[45] Fictional earthquakes tend to strike suddenly and without warning.[45] For this reason, stories about earthquakes generally begin with the disaster and focus on its immediate aftermath, as in Short Walk to Daylight (1972), The Ragged Edge (1968) or Aftershock: Earthquake in New York (1998).[45] A notable example is Heinrich von Kleist's classic novella, The Earthquake in Chile, which describes the destruction of Santiago in 1647. Haruki Murakami's short fiction collection, After the Quake, depicts the consequences of the Kobe earthquake of 1995.

The most popular single earthquake in fiction is the hypothetical "Big One" expected of California's San Andreas Fault someday, as depicted in the novels Richter 10 (1996) and Goodbye California (1977) among other works.[45] Jacob M. Appel's widely-anthologized short story, A Comparative Seismology, features a con artist who convinces an elderly woman that an apocalyptic earthquake is imminent.[46] In Pleasure Boating in Lituya Bay, one of the stories in Jim Shepard's Like You'd Understand, Anyway, the "Big One" leads to an even more devastating tsunami.

In the film 2012 (2009), solar flares (geologically implausibly) affecting the Earth's core caused massive destabilization of the Earth's crust layers. This created destruction planet-wide with earthquakes and tsunamis, foreseen by the Mayan culture and myth surrounding the last year noted in the Mesoamerican calendar - 2012.

Contemporary depictions of earthquakes in film are variable in the manner in which they reflect human psychological reactions to the actual trauma that can be caused to directly afflicted families and their loved ones.[47] Disaster mental health response research emphasizes the need to be aware of the different roles of loss of family and key community members, loss of home and familiar surroundings, loss of essential supplies and services to maintain survival.[48][49] Particularly for children, the clear availability of caregiving adults who are able to protect, nourish, and clothe them in the aftermath of the earthquake, and to help them make sense of what has befallen them has been shown to be even more important to their emotional and physical health than the simple giving of provisions.[50] As was observed after other disasters involving destruction and loss of life and their media depictions, such as those of the 2001 World Trade Center Attacks or Hurricane Katrina—and has been recently observed in the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, it is also important not to pathologize the reactions to loss and displacement or disruption of governmental administration and services, but rather to validate these reactions, to support constructive problem-solving and reflection as to how one might improve the conditions of those affected.[51]

See also


  1. ^ Spence, William; S. A. Sipkin, G. L. Choy (1989). "Measuring the Size of an Earthquake". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2006-11-03. 
  2. ^ Talebian, M. Jackson, J. 2004. A reappraisal of earthquake focal mechanisms and active shortening in the Zagros mountains of Iran. Geophysical Journal International, 156, pages 506-526
  3. ^ Noson, Qamar, and Thorsen (1988). Washington State Earthquake Hazards: Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Information Circular 85. 
  4. ^ "M7.5 Northern Peru Earthquake of 26 September 2005" (pdf). USGS. Retrieved 2008-08-01. 
  5. ^ Greene, H. W.; Burnley, P. C. (October 26, 1989). "A new self-organizing mechanism for deep-focus earthquakes". Nature 341: 733–737. doi:10.1038/341733a0. 
  6. ^ Foxworthy and Hill (1982). Volcanic Eruptions of 1980 at Mount St. Helens, The First 100 Days: USGS Professional Paper 1249. 
  7. ^ Watson, John; Watson, Kathie (January 7, 1998). "Volcanoes and Earthquakes". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved May 9, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b "What are Aftershocks, Foreshocks, and Earthquake Clusters?". 
  9. ^ "Repeating Earthquakes". United States Geological Survey. January 29, 2009. Retrieved May 11, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Earthquake Swarms at Yellowstone". USGS. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  11. ^ Amos Nur (2000). "Poseidon’s Horses: Plate Tectonics and Earthquake Storms in the Late Bronze Age Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean". Journal of Archaeological Science 27: 43–63. doi:10.1006/jasc.1999.0431. ISSN 0305-4403. 
  12. ^ "Earthquake Storms". Horizon. 9pm 1 April 2003. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  13. ^ "Earthquake Hazards Program". USGS. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  14. ^ Seismicity and earthquake hazard in the UK
  15. ^ "Italy's earthquake history". BBC News. October 31, 2002.
  16. ^ "Common Myths about Earthquakes". USGS. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  17. ^ "Earthquake Facts and Statistics: Are earthquakes increasing?". USGS. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  18. ^ "Historic Earthquakes and Earthquake Statistics: Where do earthquakes occur?". USGS. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  19. ^ "Visual Glossary - Ring of Fire". USGS. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  20. ^ "Global urban seismic risk". Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science.
  21. ^ Madrigal, Alexis (4 June 2008). "Top 5 Ways to Cause a Man-Made Earthquake". Wired News (CondéNet). Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  22. ^ "How Humans Can Trigger Earthquakes". National Geographic. February 10, 2009. Retrieved April 24, 2009. 
  23. ^ Brendan Trembath (January 9, 2007). "Researcher claims mining triggered 1989 Newcastle earthquake". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved April 24, 2009. 
  24. ^ On Shaky Ground, Association of Bay Area Governments, San Francisco, reports 1995,1998 (updated 2003)
  25. ^ Guidelines for evaluating the hazard of surface fault rupture, California Geological Survey
  26. ^ "Natural Hazards - Landslides". USGS. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  27. ^ "The Great 1906 San Francisco earthquake of 1906". USGS. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  28. ^ "Historic Earthquakes -1946 Anchorage Earthquake". USGS. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  29. ^ a b Noson, Qamar, and Thorsen (1988). Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Information Circular 85. Washington State Earthquake Hazards. 
  30. ^ MSN Encarta Dictionary. Flood. Retrieved on 2006-12-28. Archived 2009-10-31.
  31. ^ "Notes on Historical Earthquakes". British Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  32. ^ "Fresh alert over Tajik flood threat". BBC News. 2003-08-03. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  33. ^ Thomas, Amanda M.; Bürgmann, Roland; Nadeau, Robert M. (December 24, 2009), "Tremor-tide correlations and near-lithostatic pore pressure on the deep San Andreas fault", Nature 462: 1048–1051, doi:10.1038/nature08654,, retrieved December 29, 2009 
  34. ^ "Gezeitenkräfte: Sonne und Mond lassen Kalifornien erzittern" SPIEGEL online, 29.12.2009
  35. ^ Tamrazyan, Gurgen P. (1967), "Tide-forming forces and earthquakes", ICARUS (Elsevier) 7: 59–65 
  36. ^ Tamrazyan, Gurgen P. (1968), "Principal Regularities in the Distribution of Major Earthquakes Relative to Solar and Lunar Tides and Other Cosmic Forces", ICARUS (Elsevier) 9: 574–592 
  37. ^ "Facts about The Year Without a Summer". National Geographic UK. 
  38. ^ a b c Watson, John; Watson, Kathie (October 23, 1997). "Predicting Earthquakes". Retrieved May 9, 2009. 
  39. ^ NZSEE Bulletin 39(2)-June 2006
  40. ^ ASCE-SEI 41
  41. ^ NZSEE 2006
  42. ^ a b c d "Earthquakes". Encyclopedia of World Environmental History. 1. Encyclopedia of World Environmental History. 2003. pp. 358–364. 
  43. ^ Sturluson, Snorri (1220). Prose Edda. 
  44. ^ Sellers, Paige (1997-03-03). "Poseidon". Encyclopedia Mythica. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  45. ^ a b c d Van Riper, A. Bowdoin (2002). Science in popular culture: a reference guide. Westport: Greenwood Press. pp. 60. ISBN 0–313–31822–0. 
  46. ^ JM Appel. A Comparative Seismology. Weber Studies (first publication), Volume 18, Number 2.
  47. ^ Goenjian, Najarian, Pynoos, Steinberg, Manoukian, Tavosian, Fairbanks (1994). Posttraumatic stress disorder in elderly and younger adults after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Am J Psychiatry 1994; 151:895-901.
  48. ^ Wang, Gao, Shinfuku, Zhang, Zhao, Shen (2000). Longitudinal Study of Earthquake-Related PTSD in a Randomly Selected Community Sample in North China. Am J Psychiatry, 157(8): 1260 - 1266.
  49. ^ Goenjian, Steinberg, Najarian, Fairbanks, Tashjian, Pynoos (2000).Prospective Study of Posttraumatic Stress, Anxiety, and Depressive Reactions After Earthquake and Political Violence. Am J Psychiatry, 157(6): 911 - 895.
  50. ^ Coates SW, Schechter D (2004). Preschoolers’ traumatic stress post-9/11: relational and developmental perspectives. Disaster Psychiatry Issue. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 27(3), 473-489.
  51. ^ Schechter DS, Coates SW, First E (2002). Observations of acute reactions of young children and their families to the World Trade Center attacks. Journal of ZERO-TO-THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, 22(3), 9-13.

General references

External links


Seismological data centers



New Zealand

United States

Seismic scales

Scientific information


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EARTHQUAKE. Although the terrible effects which often accompany earthquakes have in all ages forced themselves upon the attention of man, the exact investigation of seismic phenomena dates only from the middle of the 19th century. A new science has been thus established under the name of seismology (Gr. Qe16µos, an earthquake).


Accounts of earthquakes are to be found scattered through the writings of many ancient authors, but they are, for the most part, of little value to the seismologist. There is a natural tendency to exaggeration in describing such phenomena, sometimes indeed to the extent of importing a supernatural element into the description. It is true that attempts were made by some ancient writers on natural philosophy to offer a rational explanation of earthquake phenomena, but the hypotheses which their explanations involved are, as a rule, too fanciful to be worth reproducing at the present day. It is therefore unnecessary to dwell upon the references to seismic phenomena which have come down to us in the writings of such historians and philosophers as Thucydides, Aristotle and Strabo, Seneca, Livy and Pliny. Nor is much to be gleaned from the pages of medieval and later writers on earthquakes, of whom the most notable are Fromondi (1527), Maggio (1571) and Travagini (1679). In England, the earliest work worthy of mention is Robert Hooke's Discourse on Earthquakes, written in 1668, and read at a later date before the Royal Society. This discourse, though containing many passages of considerable merit, tended but little to a correct interpretation of the phenomena in question. Equally unsatisfactory were the attempts of Joseph Priestley and some other scientific writers of the 18th century to connect the cause of earthquakes with electrical phenomena. The great earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 led the Rev. John Michell, professor of mineralogy at Cambridge, to turn his attention to the subject; and in 1760 he published in the Philosophical Transactions a remarkable essay on the Cause and Phenomena of Earthquakes. A suggestion of much scientific interest was made by Thomas Young, when in his Lectures on Natural Philosophy, published in 1807, he remarked that an earthquake " is probably propagated through the earth nearly in the same manner as a noise is conveyed through the air." The recognition of the fact that the seismologist has to deal with the investigation of wavemotion in solids lies at the very base of his science. In 1846 Robert Mallet communicated to the Royal Irish Academy his first paper " On the Dynamics of Earthquakes "; and in the following year W. Hopkins, of Cambridge, presented to the British Association a valuable report in which earthquake phenomena were discussed in some detail. Mallet's labours were continued for many years chiefly in the form of Reports to the British Association, and culminated in his great work on the Neapolitan earthquake of 1857. An entirely new impetus, however, was given to the study of earthquakes by an energetic body of observers in Japan, who commenced their investigations about the year 1880, mainly through the influence of Prof. John Milne, then of Tokyo. Their work, carried on by means of new instruments of precision, and since taken up by observers in many parts of the world, has so extended our knowledge of earthquake-motion that seismology has now become practically a new department of physical science.

It is hardly too much to say, however, that the earliest systematic application of scientific principles to the study of the effects of an earthquake was made by Mallet in his investigation of the Neapolitan earthquake mentioned above. It is true, the great Calabrian earthquake of 1783 had been the subject of careful inquiry by the Royal Academy of Naples, as also by Deodat Dolomieu and some other scientific authorities; but in consequence of the misconception which at that time prevailed with regard to the nature of seismic activity, the results of the inquiry, though in many ways interesting, were of very limited scientific value. It was reserved for Mallet to undertake for the first time an extensive series of systematic observations in an area of great seismic disturbance, with the view of explaining the phenomena by the application of the laws of wave-motion. The " Great Neapolitan Earthquake," by which more than 12,300 lives were lost, was felt in greater or less degree over all Italy south of the parallel of 42°, and has been regarded as ranking third in order of severity among the recorded earthquakes of Europe. The principal shock occurred at about 10 P.M. on the 16th of December 1857. 1857; but, as is usually the case, it had been preceded by minor disturbances and was followed by numerous after-shocks which. continued for many months. Early in 1858, aided by a grant. from the Royal Society, Mallet visited the devastated districts, and spent more than two months in studying the effects of the catastrophe, especially examining, with the eye of an engineer, the cracks and ruins of the buildings. His voluminous report was published in 1862, and though his methods of research and his deductions have in many cases been superseded by the advance of knowledge, the report still remains a memorable work in the history of seismology.

Much of Mallet's labour was directed to the determination of the position and magnitude of the subterranean source from which the vibratory impulses originated. This is known variously as the seismic centre, centrum, hypocentre, origin or focus. It is often convenient to regard this centre theoretically as a point, but practically it must be a locus or space of three dimensions, which in different cases varies much in size and shape, and may be of great magnitude. That part of the surface of the earth which is vertically above the centre is called the epicentre; or, if of considerable area, the epicentral or epifocal tract. A vertical line joining the epicentre and the focus was termed by Mallet the seismic vertical. He calculated that in the case of the Neapolitan earthquake the focal cavity was a curved lamelliform fissure, having a length of about 10 m. and a height of about 31 m., whilst its width was inconsiderable. The central point of this fissure, the theoretical seismic centre, he estimated to have been at a depth of about 62 m. from the surface. Dr C. Davison, in discussing Mallet's data, was led to the conclusion that there were two distinct foci, possibly situated on a fault, or plane of dislocation, running in a north-west and south-east direction. Mallet located his epicentre near the village of Caggiano, not far from Polla, while the other seems to have been in the neighbourhood of Montemurro, about 25 m. to the southeast.

The intensity, or violence, of an earthquake is greatest in or near the epicentre, whence it decreases in all directions. A line drawn through points of equal intensity forms a curve round the epicentre known as an isoseist, an isoseismal or an isoseismic line. If the intensity declined equally in all directions the isoseismals would be circles, but as this is rarely if ever the case in nature they usually become ellipses and other closed curves. The tract which is most violently shaken was termed by Mallet the meizoseismic area, whilst the line of maximum destruction is known as the meizoseismic line. That isoseismal along which the decline of energy is most rapid was called by K. von Seebach a pleistoseist. In order to determine the position of the seismic centre, Mallet made much use of the cracks in damaged buildings, especially in walls of masonry, holding that the direction of such fractures must generally be at right angles to that in which the normal earthquake-wave reached them. In this way he obtained the " angle of emergence " of the wave. He also assumed that free-falling bodies would be overthrown and projected in the direction of propagation of the wave, so that the epicentre might immediately be found from the intersection of such directions. These data are, however, subject to much error, especially through want of homogeneity in the rocks, but Mallet's work was still of great value.

A different method of ascertaining the depth of the focus was adopted by Major C. E. Dutton in his investigation of the Charleston earthquake of the 31st of August 1886 for the U.S. Geological Survey. This catastrophe was heralded by shocks of greater or less severity a few days previously at Summerville, a village 22 m. north-west of Charleston. The great earthquake occurred at 9.5 1 P.M., standard time of the 75th meridian, and in about 70 seconds almost every building in Charleston was more or less seriously damaged, while many lives were lost. The epicentral tract was mainly a forest region with but few buildings, and the principal records of seismological value were afforded by the lines of railway which traversed the disturbed area. In many places these rails were flexured and dislocated. Numerous fissures opened in the ground, and many of these discharged water, mixed sometimes with sand and silt, which was thrown up in jets rising in some cases to a height of 20 ft. Two epicentres were recognized - one near Woodstock station on the South Carolina railway, and the other, being the centre of a much smaller tract, about 14 m. south-west of the first and near the station of Rantowles on the Charleston and Savannah line. Around these centres and far away isoseismal lines were drawn, the relative intensity at different places being roughly estimated by the effects of the catastrophe on various structures and natural objects, or, where visible records were wanting, by personal evidence, which is often vague and variable. The Rossi-Forel scale was adopted. This is an arbitrary scale formulated by Professor M. S. de Rossi, of Rome, and Dr F. A. Forel, of Geneva, based mostly on the ordinary phenomena observed during an earthquake, and consisting of ten degrees, of which the lowest is the feeblest, viz. I. Microseismic shock; II. Extremely feeble shock; III. Very feeble shock; IV. Feeble; V. Shock of moderate intensity; VI. Fairly strong shock; VII. Strong shock; VIII. Very strong shock; IX. Extremely strong shock; X. Shock of extreme intensity. Other conventional scales, some being less detailed, have been drawn up by observers in such earthquake-shaken countries as Italy and Japan. A curve, or theoretical isoseismal, drawn through certain points where the decline of intensity on receding from the epicentre seems to be greatest was called by Dutton an " index-circle "; and it can be shown that the radius of such a circle multiplied by the square root of 3 gives the focal depth theoretically. In this way it was computed that in the Charleston earthquake the origin under Woodstock must have had a depth of about 12 m. and that near Rantowles a depth of nearly 8 m. The determination of the index-circle presents much difficulty, and the conclusions must be regarded as only approximate.

It is probable, according to R. D. Oldham, that local earthquakes may originate in the " outer skin " of the earth, whilst a large world-shaking earthquake takes its origin in the deeper part of the " crust," whence such a disturbance is termed a bathyseism. Large earthquakes may have very extended origins, with no definite centre, or with several foci.

The gigantic disaster known as the "Great Indian Earthquake," which occurred on the 12th of June 1897, was the subject of careful investigation by the Geological Survey of India and was described in detail by the super intendent, R. D. Oldham. It is sometimes termed the Assam earthquake, since it was in that 1897. q pro vince that the effects were most severe, but the shocks were felt over a large part of India, and indeed far beyond its boundaries. Much of the area which suffered most disturbance was a wild country, sparsely populated, with but few buildings of brick or stone from which the violence of the shocks could be estimated. The epicentral tract was of great size, having an estimated area of about 6000 sq. m., but the mischief was most severe in the neighbourhood of Shillong, where the stonework of bridges, churches and other buildings was absolutely levelled to the ground. After the main disturbance, shocks of greater or less severity continued at intervals for many weeks. It is supposed that this earthquake was connected with movement of subterranean rock-masses of enormous magnitude along a great thrust-plane, or series of such planes, having a length of about 200 m. and a maximum breadth of not less than 50 m. It is pointed out by Oldham that this may be compared for size with the great Faille du Midi in Belgium, which is known to extend for a distance of 120 m. The depth of the principal focus, though not actually capable of determination, was probably less than 5 m. from the surface. From the focus many secondary faults and fractures proceeded, some reaching the surface of the ground. Enormous landslips accompanied the earthquake, and as an indirect effect of these slides the form of the water-courses became in certain cases modified. Permanent changes of level were also observed.

Eight years after the great Assam earthquake India was visited by another earthquake, which, though less intense, resulted in the loss of about 20,000 lives. This cata strophe is known as the Kangra earthquake, since its - centre seems to have been located in the Kangra valley, in the north-west Himalaya. It occurred on 1905. the 4th of April 1905, and the first great shocks were felt in the chief epifocal district at about 6.9 A.M., Madras time. Although the tract chiefly affected was around Kangra and Dharmsala, there was a subordinate epifocal tract in Dehra Dun and the neighbourhood of Mussoorie, whilst the effects of the earthquake extended in slight measure to Lahore and other cities of the plain. It is estimated that the earthquake was felt over an area of about 1,625,000 m. Immediately after the calamity a scientific examination of its effects was made by the Geological Survey of India, and a report was drawn up by the superintendent, C. S. Middlemiss.

The great earthquake, which, with the subsequent fire, wrought such terrible destruction in and around San Francisco on the 18th of April 1906, was the most disastrous ever recorded in California. It occurred between 10 and 15 minutes - after 5 A.M., standard time of the 120th meridian. The moment at which the disaster began and the duration of the shock varied at different localities in the great area over which the earthquake was felt. At San Francisco the main shock lasted rather more than one minute.

According to the official Report, the earthquake was due to rupture and movement along the plane of the San Andreas fault, one of a series which runs for several hundred miles approximately in a N.W. and S.E. direction near the coast line. Evidence of fresh movement along this plane of dislocation was traced for a distance of 190 m. from San Juan on the south to Point Arena on the north. There the trace of the fault is lost beneath the sea, but either the same fault or another appears 75 m. to the north at Point Delgada. The belt of disturbed country is notoriously unstable, and part of the fault had been known as the " earthquake crack." The direction is marked by lines of straight cliffs, long ponds and narrow depressions, forming a Rift, or old line of seismic disturbance. According to Dr G. K. Gilbert the earthquake zone has a length of 300 or 400 m. The principal displacement of rock, in 1906, was horizontal, amounting generally to about 10 ft. (maximum 21 ft.), but there was also locally a slight vertical movement, which towards the north end of the fault reached 3 ft. Movement was traced for a distance of about 270 m., and it is estimated that at least 175,000 sq. m. of country must have been disturbed. In estimating the intensity of the earthquake in San Francisco a new scale was introduced by H. O. Wood. The greatest structural damage occurred on soft alluvial soil and " made ground." Most of the loss of property in San Francisco was due to the terrible fire which followed the earthquake and was beyond control owing to the destruction of the system of watersupply.

Immediately after the catastrophe a California Earthquake Investigation Committee was appointed by the governor of the state; and the American Association for the Advancement of Science afterwards instituted a Seismological Committee. The elaborate Report of the State Investigation Committee, by the chairman, Professor A. C. Lawson, was published in 1908.

On the 17th of August 1906 a disastrous earthquake occurred at Valparaiso, and the year 1906 was marked generally by exceptional seismic activity.

The Jamaica earthquake of the 14th of January 1907 appears to have accompanied movement of rock along an east and west fracture or series of fractures under the sea a few miles from the city of Kingston. The statue of Queen Victoria at Kingston was turned upon its pedestal the eighth of a revolution.

A terrible earthquake occurred in Calabria and Sicily on December 28, 1908, practically destroying Messina and Reggio.

According to the official returns the total loss of life was 77,283. Whilst the principal centre seems to have been in the Strait of Messina, whence the dis turbance is generally known as the Messina earthquake, there were independent centres in the Calabrian peninsula, a country which had been visited by severe earthquakes not long previously, namely on September 8, 1905, and October 23, 1907. The principal shock of the great Messina earthquake of 1908 occurred at 5.21 A.M. (4.21 Greenwich time), and had a duration of from 30 to 40 seconds. Neither during nor immediately before the catastrophe was there any special volcanic disturbance at Etna or at Stromboli, but it is believed that there must have been movement along a great plane of weakness in the neighbourhood of the Strait of Messina, which has been studied by E. Cortese. The sea-floor in the strait probably suffered great disturbance, resulting in the remarkable movement of water observed on the coast. At first the sea retired, and then a great wave rolled in, followed by others generally of decreasing amplitude, though at Catania the second was said to have been greater than the first. At Messina the height of the great wave was 2.70 metres, whilst at Ali and Giardini it reached 8.40 metres and at San Alessio as much as 11.7 metres. At Malta the tide-gauge recorded a wave of 0.91 metre. The depth of the chief earthquake-centre was estimated by Dr E. Oddone at about 9 kilometres. The earthquake and accompanying phenomena were studied also by Professor A. Ricco, Dr M. Baratta and Professor G. Platania and by Dr F. Omori of Tokyo. After the great disturbance, shocks continued to affect the region intermittently for several months. In certain respects the earthquake of 1908 presented much resemblance to the great Calabrian catastrophe of 1783.

It has been proposed by R. D. Oldham that the disturbance which causes the fracture and permanent displacement of the rocks during an earthquake should be called an " earthshake," leaving the term earthquake especially for the vibratory motion. The movement of the earthquake is molecular, whilst that of the earthshake is molar. Subsequently he suggested the terms mochleusis and orchesis (µoxMvco, I heave; 6pXEopae, I dance), to denote respectively the molar and the molecular movement, retaining the word earthquake for use in its ordinary sense.

In most earthquakes the proximate cause is generally regarded as the fracture and sudden movement of underground rockmasses. Disturbances of this type are known as " tectonic " earthquakes, since they are connected with the folding and faulting of the rocks of the earth's crust. They indicate a relief of the strain to which the rock-masses are subjected by mountainmaking and other crustal movements, and they are consequently apt to occur along the steep face of a table-land or the margin of a continent with a great slope from land to sea. In many cases the immediate seat of the originating impulse is located beneath the sea, giving rise to submarine disturbances which have been called " seaquakes." Much attention has been given to these suboceanic disturbances by Professor E. Rudolph.

Professor J. H. Jeans has pointed out that the regions of the earth's crust most affected by earthquakes lie on a great circle corresponding with the equator of the slightly pear-shaped figure that he assigns to the earth. This would represent a belt of weakness, subject to crushing, from the tendency of the pear to pass into a spherical or spheroidal form under the action of internal stresses. According to the comte de Montessus de Ballore, the regions of maximum seismic instability appear to be arranged on two great circles, inclined to each other at about 67°. These are the Circumpacific and Mediterranean zones. Maps of the world, showing the origins of large earthquakes each year, accompany the Annual Reports of the Seismological Committee of the British Association, drawn up by Professor Milne. It is important to note that Professor Milne has shown a relationship between earthquake-frequency and the wandering of the earth's pole from its mean position. Earthquakes seem to have been most frequent when the displacement of the pole has been comparatively great, or when the change in the direction of movement has been marked. Valuable earthquake catalogues have been compiled at various times by Alexis Perrey, R. and J. W. Mallet, John Milne, T. Oldham, C. W. C. Fuchs, F. de Montessus de Ballore and others.

Such earthquakes as are felt from time to time in Great Britain may generally be traced to the formation of faults, or rather to incidents in the growth of old faults. The East Anglian earthquake of the 22nd of April 1884 - the most disastrous that had occurred in the British Isles for centuries - was investigated by Prof. R. Meldola and W. White on behalf of the Essex Field Club. The shocks probably proceeded from two foci - one near the villages of Peldon and Abberton, the other near Wivenhoe and Rowhedge, in N.E. Essex. It is believed that the superficial disturbance resulted from rupture of rocks along a deep fault. An attempt has been made by H. Darwin, for the Seismological Committee of the British Association, to detect and measure any gradual movement of the strata along a fault, by observation at the Ridgeway fault, near Upway, in Dorsetshire. Dr C. Davison in studying the earthquakes which have originated in Britain since 1889 finds that several have been " twins." A twin earthquake has two maxima of intensity proceeding from two foci, whereas a double earthquake has its successive impulses from what is practically a single focus. The Hereford earthquake of December 1896, which resulted in great structural damage, was a twin, having one epicentre near Hereford and the other near Ross. Davison refers it to a slip along a fault-plane between the anticlinal areas of Woolhope and May Hill; and according to the same authority the Inverness earthquake of the 18th of September 1901 was referable to movement along a fault between Loch Ness and Inverness. The South Wales earthquake of June 27, 1906, was probably due to movement connected with the Armorican system of folds, striking in an east and west direction.

It may be noted that when a slip occurs along a fault, the displacement underground may be but slight and may die out before reaching the surface, so that no scarp is formed. In connexion, however, with a seismic disturbance of the first magnitude the superficial features may be markedly affected. Thus, the great Japan earthquake of October 1891 - known often as the Mino-Owari earthquake - was connected with the formation or development of a fault which, according to Professor B. Koto, was traced on the surface for a distance of nearly 50 m. and presented in places a scarp with a vertical throw of as much as 20 ft., while probably the maximum displacement underground was very much greater.

Although most earthquakes seem to be of tectonic type, there are some which are evidently connected, directly or indirectly, with volcanic activity (see Volcano). Such, it is commonly believed, were the earthquakes which disturbed the Isle of Ischia in 1881 and 1883, and were studied by Professor J. Johnston-Lavis and G. Mercalli. In addition to the tectonic and volcanic types, there are occasional earthquakes of minor importance which may be referred to the collapse of the roof of waves. Further, in a great earthquake the surface of the ground is sometimes visibly agitated in the epifocal district by undulations which may be responsible for severe superficial damage. (See also for elastic waves Elasticity, § 89.) An old classification of earthquake-shocks, traces of which still linger in popular nomenclature, described them as " undulatory," when the movement of the ground was mainly in a horizontal direction; " subsultory," when the motion was vertical, like the effect of a normal wave at the epicentre; and " vorticose," when the movement was rotatory, apparently due to successive impulses in varying directions.

The sounds which are associated with seismic phenomena, often described as subterranean rumbling and roaring, are not without scientific interest, and have been carefully studied by Davison. " Isacoustic lines " are curves drawn through places where the sound is heard by the same percentage of observers. The sound is always low and often inaudible to many.

The refined instruments which are now used by seismologists for determining the elements of earthquake motion and for recording earthquakes from distant origins are described in the article Seismometer. These instruments were developed as a consequence of the attention given in modern times to the study of earthquakes in the Far East. (F. W. R.*) Strange as it may appear, the advances that have been made in the study of earthquakes and>the world-wide interest shown in their phenomena were initiated in work corn caverns, or other falls of rock in underground cavities at no great depth. According to Prof. T. J. J. See most earthquakes are due, directly or indirectly, to the explosive action of steam, formed chiefly by the leakage of sea-water through the ocean floor. Whatever the nature of the impulse which originates the earthquake, it gives rise to a series of waves which are propagated through the earth's substance and also superficially. In or waves of elastic compression, the particles vibrate to and from the centre of disturbance, moving in the direction in which the wave travels, and therefore in a way analogous to the movement of air in a sound-wave. Associated with this type are other waves termed transverse waves, or waves of elastic distortion, in which the particles vibrate across or around the direction in which the wave is propagated. The normal waves result from a temporary change of volume in the medium; the transverse from a change of shape. The distance through which an earth-particle moves from its mean position of rest, whether radially or transversely, is called the amplitude of the wave; whilst the double amplitude, or total distance of movement, to and fro or up and down, like the distance from crest to trough of a water wave, may be regarded as the range of the wave. The period of a wave is the time required for the vibrating particle to complete an oscillation. As the rocks of the earth's crust are very heterogeneous, the earthquake-waves suffer refraction and reflection as they pass from one rock to another differing in density and elasticity. In this way the waves break up and become much modified in course of transmission, thus introducing great complexity into the phenomena. It is known that the normal waves travel more rapidly than the transverse.

Measurements of the surface speed at which earthquake-waves travel require very accurate time-measurers, and these are not generally available in earthquake-shaken regions. Observations during the Charleston earthquake of 1886 were at that time of exceptional value, since they were made over a large area where standard time was kept. Lines drawn through places around the epicentre at which the shock arrives at the same moment are called coseismal lines. The motion of the wave is to be distinguished from the movement of the vibrating particles. The velocity of the earth-particle is its rate of movement, but this is constantly changing during the vibration, and the rate at which the velocity changes is technically called the acceleration of the particle.

Unfelt movements of the ground are registered in the earthquake records, or seismograms, obtained by the delicate instruments used by modern seismologists. From the study of the records of a great earthquake from a distant source, sometimes termed a teleseismic disturbance, some interesting inferences have been drawn with respect to the constitution of the interior of the earth. The complete record shows two phases of " preliminary tremors " preceding the principal waves. It is believed that while the preliminary tremors pass through the body of the earth, the principal waves travel along or parallel to the surface. Probably the first phase represents condensational, and the second phase distortional, waves. Professor Milne concludes from the speed of the waves at different depths that materials having similar physical properties to those at the surface may extend to a depth of about 30 m., below which they pass into a fairly homogeneous nucleus. From the different rates of propagation of the precursors it has been inferred by R. D. Oldham that below the outer crust, which is probably not everywhere of the same thickness, the earth is of practically uniform character to a depth of about six-tenths of the radius, but the remaining four-tenths may represent a core differing physically and perhaps chemically from the outer part. Oldham also suggests, from his study of oceanic and continental wave-paths, that there is probably a difference in the constitution of the earth beneath oceans and beneath continents.

The surface waves, which are waves of great length and long period and are propagated to great distances with practically a constant velocity, have been regarded as quasi-elastic gravitational menced in Japan. When the Japanese government, seis= desiring to adopt Western knowledge, invited to its shores bodies of men to act as its instructors, the attention of the newcomers was naturally attracted to the frequent shakings of the ground. Interest in these phenomena increased more rapidly than their frequency, and at length it was felt that something should be done for their systematic study. At midnight on the 22nd of February 1880 movements more violent than usual occurred; chimneys were shattered or rotated, tiles slid down from roofs, and in the morning it was seen that Yokohama had the appearance of a city that had suffered a bombardment. The excitement was intense, and before the ruins had been removed a meeting was convened and the Seismological Society of Japan established. The twenty volumes of original papers published by this body summarize to a large extent the results of the later study of seismology.' The attention of the students of earthquakes in Japan was at first directed almost entirely to seismometry or earthquake measurement. Forms of apparatus which then existed, as for example the seismographs, seismometers and seismoscopes of Mallet, Palmieri and others, were subjected to trial; but inasmuch as they did little more than indicate that an earthquake had taken place - the more elaborate forms recording also the time of its occurrence - they were rapidly discarded, and instruments were constructed to measure earthquake motion. Slightly modified types of the new instruments devised in Japan were adopted throughout the Italian peninsula, and it is fair to say that the seismometry developed in Japan revolutionized the seismometry of the world. The records obtained from the new instruments increased our knowledge of the character of earthquake motion, and the engineer and the architect were placed in a position to construct so that the effects of known movements could be minimized. It was no doubt the marked success, both practical and scientific, attending these investigations that led the Japanese government to establish a chair of seismology at its university, to organize a system of nearly loon observing stations throughout the country, and in 1893 to appoint a committee of scientific and practical men to carry out investigations which might palliate the effects of seismic disturbances. In the first year this committee received a grant of £5000, and as liberal sums for the same purpose appear from time to time in the ' The publications for 1880-1892 were termed the Transactions of the Seismological Society of Japan, and for 1893-1895 the Seismological Journal of Japan. The observations are now published by the Earthquake Investigation Committee of Japan, and edited by F. Omori, professor of seismology at the university of Tokyo.

one kind, known as normal or condensational waves, world may be recorded in almost any other. Italy logical . for many years past has had its observatories for recording earthquakes which can be felt, and which are of local origin, but at the present time at all its first-class stations we find instruments to record the unfelt movements due to earthquakes originating at great distances, and as much attention is now paid to the large earthquakes of the world as to the smaller ones originating within Italian territory.' The Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften of Vienna established earthquake observatories in Austria,' and the Central Observatorium of St Petersburg has carried out similar work in Russia. Germany attached a seismological observatory to its university at Strassburg, whilst provision has been made for a professorship of Earth Physics (Geophysik) at Göttingen.' In accordance with the recommendation of the British Association, seismographs of a similar character have been installed at stations all over the world. 4 The principal objects of this extended and still extending system of stations are to determine the velocity with which motion is propagated over the surface and through the interior of the earth, to locate the positions of sub-oceanic earthquake origins, and generally to extend our knowledge respecting the physical nature of the planet on which we live.

We now know that earthquakes are many times more frequent than was previously supposed. In Japan, for example, between 1885 and 1892 no fewer than 8331 were recorded - that i s to say, on the average there were during that time of earth= . more than 1000 disturbances per year. Although many of these did not cause a sensible shaking over areas exceeding a few hundred square miles, many of them were sufficiently intense to propagate vibrations round and through the globe. If we pick out the well-marked earthquake districts of the world, and give to each of them a seismicity or earthquake frequency per unit area one-third of that in Japan, the conclusion arrived at is that considerable areas of our planet are on the average shaken every half-hour.

The knowledge which we now possess respecting the localities where earthquakes are frequent and the forms of the foci from which they have spread, enables us to speak definitely is accompanied by no more than a slight local shaking of the ground. This is true even for the largest and most violent eruptions, when mountains have with practically a single effort blown off their heads and shoulders. Thus the earthquake which accompanied the eruption of Bandaisan, in central Japan, in 1888 was felt only over a radius of 25 m. The analyses of the seismic registers of Japan clearly indicate that comparatively few shakings originate near to the volcanoes of the country, the majority of them, like those of many other countries, coming from regions where volcanic rocks are absent. The greatest number spread inland from the Pacific seaboard, the movement becoming more and more feeble as it approaches the backbone of the country, which is drilled with numerous volcanic vents. What is true for Japan is generally true for the western coasts of North and South America.

Speaking broadly, earthquakes are most frequent along the steeper flexures in the earth's surface, and in those regions where there is geological evidence to show that slow secular movements in the earth's crust are possibly yet in progress. With a unit distance of 2 degrees, or 120 geographical m., we find that the slopes running eastwards from the highlands of Japan and westwards from the Andean ridges down into the Pacific vary from i in 20 to i in 30, and it is on the faces or near to the bottom of these slopes that seismic efforts are frequent. The slopes running from Australia, eastern America and western Europe into the neighbouring oceans vary between I in 70 and 1 in 250, and in these regions earthquakes are of rare occurrence. The seismic activity met with in the Himalayas and the Alps finds its best explanation in the fact that these mountains are geologically recent, and there are no reasons to doubt that the forces which brought their folds into existence are yet in action.

This peculiar association of earthquakes with pronounced topographical configuration and certain geological conditions evidently indicates that the origin of many of them is connected with rock folding. Inasmuch as certain large earthquakes have been accompanied by rock fracture, as for example in 1891, when in central Japan a fault some 50 m. in length was created, whilst the origins of others have been distinctly traced to the line of an existing fault or its continuation, we may conclude that the majority of earthquakes are spasmodic accelerations in the secular movements which are creating (and in some instances possibly obliterating) the more prominent features of the earth's surface. These secular movements, which include upheavals, subsidences, horizontal displacements - all of which are explained on the assumption of a crust seeking support on a nucleus gradually contracting by loss of heat, are collectively referred to as bradyseismical (13pa81)3, slow) movements. To these may be added movements directly attributable to the influence of gravity. Sub-oceanic districts in a state of seismic strain may be so far loaded by the accumulation of sediments that gentle bending may be accompanied by sudden yieldings. This possibly accounts for the frequency of earthquakes off the mouth of the Tonegawa on the eastern side of Japan. The distortions so frequently observed in fossils and pebbles, the varying thickness of contorted strata, and the " creep " in coal-mines, together with other phenomena, indicate that rocks may flow. Observations of this nature lead to the supposition that high plateau-like regions may be gradually subsiding under the influence of their own weight, and that the process of settlement may from time to time be spasmodic in its character. Whether the earthquakes which originate round the submerged basal frontiers of the continents bounding the Pacific are ever attributable to such activities, it is impossible to say. All that we know with certainty is that they are sometimes accompanied by such a vast displacement of material that the ocean has been set into a state of oscillation for periods of 2 4 hours, that in some instances there have been marked changes in depth, and that enormous sub-oceanic landslips have occurred. These phenomena are, however, equally well explained on the assumption of sudden faulting accompanied by violent shaking, which would dislodge steeply inclined beds of material beneath the ocean as it does upon the land.

parliamentary estimates, it may be assumed that the work has been fraught with good results. In their publications we find not only records of experiences and experiments in Japan, but descriptions and comments upon earthquake effects in other countries. In two of the volumes there are long and extremely well illustrated accounts of the earthquake which on the 12th of June 1897 devastated Assam, to which country two members of the above-mentioned committee were despatched to gather such information as might be of value to the architect and builder in earthquake-shaken districts.

A great impetus to seismological investigation in Europe and America was no doubt given by the realization of the fact that a large earthquake originating in any one part of the respecting the originating causes of many of these phenomena. It is found, for example, that although in many countries there may be displays of volcanic and seismic activity taking place almost side by side, it is only rarely that there is direct relationship between the two. Now and then, however, before a volcano breaks into eruption there may be a few ineffectual efforts to form a vent, each of which 1 The chief Italian station is at Rocca di Papa near Rome. It is ,equipped with delicate instruments designed by its director, Giovanni Agamennone. The records since 1895 are published in the Bollettino ,della Societd Sismologica Italiana, edited by Luigi Palazzo, director of the Central Office for Meteorology and Geodynamics at Rome.

' The chief Austrian publications are : - Mittheilungen der Erdbebencommission der k. Akad. der Wissen. in Wien (since 1897) Die Erdbebenwarte (1901-1907); and the " Neueste Erdbebennachrichten, Beilage der Monatsschrift " Die Erdbebenwarte." 3 The " International Seismological Association " was founded at Strassburg in 1903, and publishes the Beitrcige zur Geophysik, edited by George Gerland, director of the Strassburg station; the papers are printed in several languages.

The records of the British Association stations are published (since 1896) in the Reports. Chile has a national earthquake service (founded after the Valparaiso earthquake of August 1906) directed by comte de Montessus de Ballore.

Although the proximate cause of earthquake motion is traced to sudden yieldings in the crust of the earth brought about Two types by some form of bradyseismical action, the exist- of earth= ence of at least two distinct types of seismic motion quake indicates that the mechanical conditions accompany motion. i ng the fracturing of rocks are not always identical. 90 or 95% of the earthquakes which can be recorded consist of elastic or quasi-elastic vibrations. The remainder, including the large earthquakes, not only exhibit the elastic movements, but are accompanied by surface undulations which are propagated most certainly for some hundreds of miles round their origin, and then as horizontal movements sweep over the whole surface of the globe. The former of these may accompany the formation of a new fault or the sudden renewal of movement along an old one; they are cracking or rending effects, without any great displacement. The latter are probably fracturings accompanied by vertical and horizontal displacements of masses of the earth's crust sufficiently great to set up the observed surface undulations. These shocks are so frequently followed a few minutes later by disturbances, which from their similarity to the movements which have preceded them may be called earthquake echoes, that we are led to the speculation that we are here dealing with the caving-in of ill-supported portions of the earth's crust, the waves from which are radiated to boundaries and then returned to their origin to coalesce and give rise to a second impulse not unlike the primary. Succeeding the first repetition of motion recorded by the seismograph there is often a rhythmical repetition of similar wave groups, suggesting the existence within our earth of phenomena akin to multiple echoes.

The introduction of new methods into seismometry quickly revolutionized our ideas respecting the character of earthquake motion. Although an earthquake may be strongly felt within a distance of so m. from its origin, and although the movements in the upper storeys of buildings within the shaken area may be large, the actual range of the horizontal motion of the ground is usually less than fu of an inch. With such earthquakes ordinary seismographs for recording vertical motion do not show any disturbance. When the movement reaches a in. it becomes dangerous, and a back-and-forth movement of an inch is usually accompanied by destructive effects. In this latter case the amplitude of the vertical record which indicates the existence of surface waves will vary between z and 1 1) of an inch. In the earthquake which devastated central Japan on the 26th of October 1891, nearly every building within the epifocal district fell, the ground was fissured, forests slipped down from mountain sides to dam up valleys, whilst the valleys themselves were permanently compressed. The horizontal movements seem to have reached 9 in. or 1 ft., and the surface undulations were visible to the eye.

The rapidity with which the movements are performed varies throughout a disturbance. A typical earthquake usually commences with minute elastic vibrations, the periods of which vary between -- and -a of a second. These are recorded by seismographs, and are noticed by certain of the lower animals like pheasants, which before the occurrence of movement perceptible to human beings scream as if alarmed. When an earthquake is preceded by a sound we have evidence of preliminary tremors even more rapid than those recorded by seismographs. Following these precursors there is a shock or shocks, the period of which will be 1 or 2 seconds. From this climax the movements, although irregular in character, become slower and smaller until finally they are imperceptible. The duration of a small earthquake usually varies from a few seconds to a minute, but large earthquakes, which are accompanied by surface undulations, may be felt for 2 or 3 minutes, whilst an ordinary seismograph indicates a duration of from 6 to 12 minutes. A free horizontal pendulum tells us that with severe earthquakes the ground comes to rest by a series of more or less rhythmical surgings continuing over 1 or 2 hours. Although the maximum displacement has a definite direction, the successive vibrations are frequently performed in many different azimuths. The predominating direction at a given station in certain instances is apparently at right angles to the strike of the neighbouring strata, this. being the direction of easiest yielding.






in kms.

per sec. if


depth of

chord in

in degrees.

on chord.

4 kms.

Nicolaieff. ... .

81 °


8 o





Catania, Ischia, Rocca di

Papa, Rome. .. .




Isle of Wight. .




Earthquake motion as recorded at stations several thousands of miles distant from its origin exhibits characteristics strikingly different from those just described. The precursors now show periods of from i to 5 seconds, whilst the velocity. largest movements corresponding to the shocks may have periods of from 20 to 40 seconds. The interval of time by which the first tremors have outraced the maximum movement has also become greater. Within a few hundreds of miles from an origin this interval increases steadily, the velocity of propagation of the first movements being about 2 km. per second, whilst that of the latter may be taken at about 1.6 km. per second. Beyond this distance the velocity of transmission of the first movements rapidly increases, and for great distances,, as for example from Japan to England, it is higher than we. should expect for waves of compression passing through steel or glass. This observation precludes the idea that these preliminary tremors have travelled through the heterogeneous. crust of the earth, and since the average velocity of their transmission increases with the length of the path along which they have travelled, and we but rarely obtain certain evidence that a. seismograph has been disturbed by waves which have reached it by travelling in opposite directions round the world, we are led to the conclusion that earthquake precursors pass through our earth and not round its surface. The following table relating. to earthquakes, which originated off the coast of Borneo on the 10th and 27th of September 1897, is illustrative of the velocities. here considered: - The chords referred to here are those joining the earthquake origins and distant observing stations, and it will be noted that one-quarter of the square root of the average depths at which these run closely corresponds to observed average velocities. if wave paths followed chords. This increase of velocity with average depth shows that the paths followed through the earth must be curved with their convexity towards the centre of the earth. These observations do not directly tell us to what extent a true wave path is deflected from the direction of a chord, but they suggest as an extremely plausible assumption that the square of the speed is a linear function of the depth below the surface of the earth. With this assumption Dr C. G. Knott shows that the square of the speed (v 2) can be expressed linearly in terms of the average depth of the chord d, thus: v 2 = 2.0-. 026 d, the units being miles and seconds. The formula applies with fair accuracy to moderate and high values of d, but it gives too high a value for short chords. It follows that the square of the speed increases 0.9% per mile of descent in the earth. The conclusion we arrive at is that the preliminary tremors which pass through the earth do so in the vicinity of their origin at the rate of almost 2.3 km. per second. This velocity increases as the wave path plunges downwards, attaining in the central regions a velocity of 16 to 17 kms., whilst the highest average velocity which is across a diameter lies between 1 o and 12 kms. per second.

The large surface waves radiating from an origin to a distant place have velocities lying between 1 6 and 4 kms. per second, and it has been observed that when the higher velocity has been noted this refers to an observation at a station very remote from the origin. One explanation of this is the assumption that only very large waves indicating a large initial disturbance are capable of travelling to great distances, and as pointed out by Character of earth= quake motion. Period and duration. R. D. Oldham, large waves under the influence of gravity will travel faster than small waves. These waves (which may be gravitational or distortional) are recorded as slow tiltings of the ground measured by angles of o. 5 to io or 15 seconds of arc, or as horizontal displacements of o. 5 or several millimetres. Their calculated lengths have reached 50 kms. (31 m.).

In the section of this article relating to the cause of earthquakes a little has been said about their frequency or the number of times these phenomena are repeated during a given i nterval of time. It has been shown that all countries are very often moved by earthquakes which have originated at great distances. Great Britain, for example, is crossed about loo times a year by earthquake waves having durations of from 3 minutes to 3 hours, whilst the vibratory motions which originate in that country are not only small but of rare occurrence. In the earlier stages of the world's history, because the contraction of its nucleus was more rapid than it is at present, it is commonly inferred that phenomena accompanying bradyseismical activity must have been more pronounced and have shown themselves upon a grander scale than they do at the present time. Now, although the records of our rocks only carry us back over a certain portion of this history, they certainly represent an interval of time sufficiently long to furnish some evidence of such enfeeblement if it ever existed. So far from this being the case, however, we meet with distinct evidences in the later chapters of geological history of plutonic awakenings much more violent than those recorded at its commencement. During Palaeozoic times many mountain ranges were formed, and accompanying these orogenic processes there was marked volcanic activity. In the succeeding Secondary period plutonic forces were quiescent, but during the formation of the early Tertiaries, when some of the largest mountain ranges were created, they awoke with a vigour greater than had ever been previously exhibited. At this period it is not improbable that Scotland was as remarkable for its volcanoes and its earthquakes as Japan is at the present day. If the statement relating to the general decrease in bradyseismical changes referred merely to their frequency, and omitted reference to their magnitude, the views of the geologist and physicist might harmonize. One explanation for this divergence of opinion may rest on the fact that too little attention has been directed to all the conditions which accompany the adaptation of the earth's crust to its shrinking nucleus. As the latter grows smaller the puckerings and foldings of the former should grow larger. Each succeeding geological epoch should be characterized by mountain formations more stupendous than those which preceded them, whilst the fracturing, dislccation, caving-in of ill-supported regions, and creation of lines of freedom for the exhibition of volcanic activity which would accompany these changes, would grow in magnitude. The written records of many countries reflect but on a smaller scale the crystallized records in their hills. In 1844, at Comrie, in Perthshire, as many as twelve earthquakes were recorded in a single month, whilst now there are but one or two per year. Earthquake frequency varies with time. A district under the influence of hypogenic activities reaches a condition of seismic strain which usually is relieved rapidly at first, but subsequently more slowly.

The small shocks which follow an initial large disturbance are known as after-shocks. The first shock which in 1891 devastated central Japan was accompanied by the formation of a large fault, and the 3364 small shocks which succeeded this during the following two years are regarded as due to intermittent settlements of disjointed material. The decreasing frequency with which after-shocks occur may be represented by a curve. Dr F. Omori points out that the continuation of such a curve gives the means of determining the length of time which will probably elapse before the region to which it refers will return to the same seismic quiescence that it had prior to the initial disturbance.

The positive results that we have respecting the periodicity of earthquakes are but few. Generally earthquakes are somewhat more frequent during winter than during summer, and this applies to both the northern and southern hemispheres. The annual periodicity, which, however, does not show itself if only destructive earthquakes are considered, finds an explanation, according to Dr Knott, in the annual periodicity of longcontinued stresses, as for example those due to the accumulation of snow and to barometric gradients.

For certain earthquake regions there appears to be a distinct semi-annual period for which no satisfactory explanation has yet been adduced. Although the elaborate registers of Japan, which have enabled us to group earthquakes according to their respective origins and varying intensities, and to separate after-shocks from initial disturbances, have been subjected by Dr Knott to most careful analysis, with the object of discovering periodicities connected with the ebb and flow of the tides, the lunar day or lunar months, nothing of marked character has been found. Certainly there is slight evidence of a periodicity connected with the times of conjunction and opposition of the sun and moon, and a maximum frequency near the time of perigee, but the effect of lunar stresses is comparatively insignificant. Ordinary earthquakes, and especially after-shocks, show a diurnal period, but we cannot say that there are more earthquakes during the night than during the day.

Many experiments and investigations have been made to determine a possible relationship between earthquakes and electrical phenomena, but beyond drawing attention to the fact that luminous appearances may accompany the friction of moving masses of rock and that a g, temporary current may be established in a line by the disturbance of an earth-plate, these inquiries have yielded but little of importance. The inquiries respecting a possible relationship between adjustments so frequently taking place within and beneath that region called the crust of the earth and magnetic phenomena are, however, of a more promising nature. We have seen that at or near the origin of earthquakes which for several hours disturb continents, and occasionally cause oceans to oscillate for longer periods, we sometimes have direct evidence of the bodily displacement of many cubic miles of material. When this material is volcanic it is almost invariably magnetic, and we perceive in its sudden rearrangement causes which should produce magnetic effects within an epifocal district. In Japan, where attention is being directed to phenomena of this description, not only have such effects been observed, but unusual magnetic disturbances have been noted prior to the occurrence of large earthquakes. These may, of course, be regarded as mere coincidences, but when we consider volcanic and seismic activities as evidences of physical and chemical changes, together with mechanical displacements of a magnetic magma, it is reasonable to suppose that they should have at least a local influence upon magnetic needles. Another form of disturbance to which magnetic needles are subjected is that which accompanies the passage of large earth-waves beneath certain observatories situated at great distances from earthquake origins. At Utrecht, Potsdam and Wilhelmshaven the magnetographs are frequently disturbed by seismic waves, whilst at many other European observatories such effects are absent or only barely appreciable. To explain these marked differences in the behaviour of magnetic needles at different stations we are at present only in a position to formulate hypotheses. They may be due to the fact that different needles have different periodic times of oscillation; it is possible that at one observatory the mechanical movements of the ground are much greater than at others; we may speculate on the existence of materials beneath and around various observatories which are different in their magnetic characters; and, lastly, we may picture a crust of varying thickness, which from time to time is caused to rise and fall upon a magnetic magma, the places nearest to this being the most disturbed.

A subject to which but little attention has been directed is the effect which displays of seismic and volcanic activities have had upon the human mind. The effects are distinctly dual and opposite in character. In countries like England, where earthquakes are seldom experienced, the prevailing idea is that they are associated with all that is baneful. For certain earthquakes, which fortunately are less than 1% of those which are annually recorded, this is partially true. A disastrous shock may unnerve a whole community. Effects of this nature, however, differ in a marked manner with different nationalities. After the shock of 1891, when Japan lost 9960 of its inhabitants, amongst the wounded indications of mental excitement were shown in spinal and other trouble. Notwithstanding the lightheartedness of this particular nation, it is difficult to imagine that the long series of seismic effects chronicled in Japanese history, which culminated in 1896 in the loss of 29,000 lives by sea-waves, has been without some effect upon its mental and moral character. Several earthquakes are annually commemorated by special services at temples. In bygone times governments have recognized earthquakes as visitations of an angry deity, whom they have endeavoured to appease by repealing stringent laws and taxes. In other countries the sermons which have been preached to show that the tremblings of the world were visitations consequent on impiety, and the prayers which have been formulated to ward off disasters in the future, far exceed in number the earthquakes which gave rise to them. In 1755 many of the English clergy held the view that Lisbon was destroyed because its inhabitants were Catholics, whilst the survivors from that disaster attributed their misfortune to the fact that they had tolerated a few Protestant heretics in their midst. To avoid a recurrence of disaster certain of these were baptized by force. In the myths relating to underground monsters and personages that are said to be the cause of earthquakes we see the direct effects which exhibitions of seismic and volcanic activity have produced upon the imagination. The beliefs, or more properly, perhaps, the poetical fancies, thus engendered have exhibited themselves in various forms. Beneath Japan there is said to be a catfish, which in other countries is replaced by a mole, a hog, an elephant or other living creature, which when it is restless shakes the globe. The Kamchadales picture a subterranean deity called Tuil, who in Scandinavian mythology is represented by the evil genius Loki. We have only to think of the reference in the Decalogue forbidding the making of graven images of that which is in the earth beneath, to see in early Biblical history evidence of a subterranean mythology; and it seems probable that the same causes which led to the creation of Pluto, Vulcan and Poseidon gave rise to practices condemned by Moses.

Perhaps the greatest practical benefits derived from seismological investigations relate to important changes and new principles which have been introduced into the arts of to with- the engineer and builder when constructing in earthquake countries. The new rules and formulae, rather than being theoretical deductions from hypotheses, _ 1 gFAB a - 6 fw where a = the acceleration per sec. per sec.

F = the force of cohesion, or force per unit surface, which when gradually applied produces fracture.

A=area of base fractured.

B = thickness of the column.

f= height of centre of gravity of column above the fractured base.

w = the weight of the portion broken off.

With this formula and its derivatives we are enabled to state the height to which a wall, for example, may be built capable of resisting any assumed acceleration. Experience has shown that yielding first shows itself at the base of a pier, a wall or a building, and it is therefore clear that the lower portion of such structures should be of greater dimensions or stronger than that above. Piers having these increased dimensions below, and tapering upwards in a proper manner, so that every horizontal section is sufficiently strong to resist the effects of the inertia of its superstructure, are employed to carry railways in Japan. In that country cast-iron piers are things of the past, whilst piers of masonry, together with their foundations, no longer follow the rules of ordinary engineering practice.

After flood, fire, earthquake, or when opportunity presents itself, changes are introduced in the construction of ordinary buildings. In a so-called earthquake-proof house, although externally it is similar to other dwellings, we find rafters running from the ridge pole to the floor sills, an exceedingly light roof, iron straps and sockets replacing mortices and tenons, and many other departures from ordinary rules. Masonry arches for bridges or arched openings in walls (unless protected by lintels), heavy gables, ornamental copings, cappings for chimneys, have by their repeated failure shown that they are undesirable features for construction in earthquake countries. As sites for buildings it is well to avoid soft ground, on which the movement is always greater than on hard ground. Excessive movement also takes place along the face of unsupported openings, and for this reason the edges of scarps, bluffs, cuttings and river-banks are localities to be avoided. In short, the rules and precautions which have to be recognized so as to avoid or mitigate the effects of earthquake movement are so numerous that students of engineering and architecture in Japan receive a special course of lectures on this subject. When it is remembered that a large earthquake may entail a loss of life greater than that which takes place in many wars, and that for the reconstruction of ordinary buildings, factories and public works an expenditure of several million pounds sterling is required, the importance of these studies cannot be overrated. Severe earthquakes are fortunately unknown in the British Isles, but we have simply to turn our eyes to earthquake-shaken colonies and lands in close commercial touch with Great Britain to realize the importance of mitigating such disasters as much as possible, and any endeavour to obviate the wholesale destruction of life should appeal to the civilized communities of the world.

An unexpected application of seismometry has been to record the vibration of railway trains, bridges and steamships. An instrument of suitable construction will give records of the more or less violent jolting and vibratory movements of a train, and so localize irregularities due to changes in the character of ballast and sleepers, metry. to variation in gauge, &c. An instrument placed on a locomotive throws considerable light upon the effects due to the methods of balancing the wheels, and by alterations in this respect a saving of fuel of from 1 to 5 lb of coal per mile per locomotive has sometimes been effected.

By mapping the centres from which earthquakes originate off the coast of Japan, we have not only determined districts where geological activity is pronounced, but have placed before the cable engineer well-defined localities which it is advisable to avoid; and in the records of unfelt earthquakes which originate far from land similar information is being collected for the deeper parts of the oceans. Occasionally these records have almost immediately made clear the cause of a cable failure. From lack of such information in 1888, when the cables connecting Australia with the outer world were simultaneously broken, the sudden isolation was regarded as a possible operation of war, and the colonists called out their naval and military reserves. Records of earthquakes originating at great distances have also frequently enabled us to anticipate, to correct, to extend, or to disprove telegraphic accounts of the disasters. Whatever information a seismogram may give is certain, whilst the information gathered from telegrams may in the process of transit become exaggerated or minimized. Otherwise unaccountable disturbances in records from magnetographs, barographs and other instruments employed in observatories are frequently are the outcome of observation and experiment. True measures of earthquake motion have been given to us by modern seismometers, with the result that seismic destructivity can be accurately expressed in mechanical units. From observation we now know the greatest acceleration and maximum velocity of an earth particle likely to be encountered; and these are measures of the destructivity. The engineer is therefore dealing with known forces, and he has to bear in mind that these are chiefly applied in a horizontal direction. A formula connecting the acceleration requisite to overturn bodies of different dimensions has been given. The acceleration which will fracture or shatter a column firmly fixed at its foundation to the moving earth may be expressed as follows: - explained by reference to the traces yielded by seismometers. Perhaps the greatest triumph in seismological investigation has been the determination of the varying rates at which motion is propagated through the world. These measurements have already thrown new light upon its effective rigidity, and if we assume that the density of the earth increases uniformly from its surface towards its centre, so that its mean density is 5.5, then, according to Knott, the coefficient of elasticity which governs the transmission of preliminary tremors of an earthquake increases at a rate of nearly 1.2% per mile of descent. (J. Mi.) Authorities. - J. Mime, Seismology (London, 1898), Earthquakes (London, 1898), Bakerian Lecture, " Recent Advances in Seismology," Proc. Roy. Soc., 1906, 77, p. 365; J. A. Ewing, Memoir on Earthquake Measurement (Tokyo, 1883); C. E. Dutton, Earthquakes in the Light of the New Seismology (London, 1904); " The Charleston Earthquake of Aug. 31, 1886," Ninth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey, 1889; W. H. Hobbs, Earthquakes, an Introduction to Seismic Geology (London, 1908), " The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, 1906," Bull. U.S. Geol. Surv. No. 324; " The California Earthquake of Ap. 18, 1906," Rep. State Earthq. Com. (Washington, D.C., 1908); R. D. Oldham, " Report on the Great Earthquake of 12 June 1897," Mem. Geol. Surv. India, xxix. 1899, " On the Propagation of Earthquake Motion to great Distances," Phil. Trans., 1900, A, vol. 194, p. 135, " The Constitution of the Interior of the Earth as revealed by Earthquakes," Quar. Jour. Geol. Soc., 1906, 62, P. 456; 1907, 6 3, P. 344; C. Davison, A Study of Recent Earthquakes (London, 1905); The Hereford Earthquake of December 17, 1896 (Birmingham, 1899), " The Investigation of Earthquakes," Beitrage z. Geophysik, Bd. ix., 1908, p. 201, and papers on British earthquakes in Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc.; T. J. J. See, " The Cause of Earthquakes, Mountain Formation and Kindred Phenomena connected with the Physics of the Earth," Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc., 1906, 45, p. 2 73; F. Frech, " Erdbeben and Gebirgsbau," Petermann's Mitteilungen, Bd. 53, 1907, p. 2 45 (with maps); C. G. Knott, The Physics of Earthquake Phenomena (Oxford, 1908); Comte F. de Montessus de Ballore, Les Tremblements de terre: geographie seismologique (Paris, 1906), La Science seismologique (1907); Transactions of the Seismological Society of Japan; Seismological Journal (Yokohama); Bollettino della Societa Sismologica Italiana (Rome); Reports of the British Association, containing the annual reports of the Committee for Seismological Investigations; papers in the Beitrage zur Geophysik and the Erganzungsbande.

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mentioned among the extraordinary phenomena of Palestine (Ps. 18:7; comp. Hab. 3:6; Nah. 1:5; Isa. 5:25).

The first earthquake in Palestine of which we have any record happened in the reign of Ahab (1 Kings 19:11, 12). Another took place in the days of Uzziah, King of Judah (Zech. 14:5). The most memorable earthquake taking place in New Testament times happened at the crucifixion of our Lord (Matt. 27:54). An earthquake at Philippi shook the prison in which Paul and Silas were imprisoned (Act 16:26).

It is used figuratively as a token of the presence of the Lord (Judg. 5:4; 2 Sam. 22:8; Ps. 77:18; 97:4; 104:32).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

[[File:|thumb|250px|Damage from the San Francisco, California earthquake in 1906.]] [[File:|thumb|right|250px|San Francisco Bay earthquake prediction.]] [[File:|thumb|250px|A replica of Zhang Heng's (78–139 AD) seismometer. It employed a pendulum sensitive to ground tremors; placed in Luoyang in 133, it detected an earthquake 400 to 500 km (250 to 310 mi) away in Gansu]] An earthquake is a violent movement of the rocks in the Earth's crust. Earthquakes are usually quite brief, but may repeat over a long period of time.

There are large earthquakes and small earthquakes. Big earthquakes can take down buildings and cause death and injury. The study of earthquakes is called seismology.[1]

When the earth moves in an earthquake, it can cause waves in the ocean, and if a wave grows large enough, it's called a "tsunami". A tsunami can do just as much death and destruction as an earthquake. Landslides can happen, too. This is a very important part of the Earth's cycle.

Earthquakes are measured with a seismometer. The magnitude of an earthquake, and the intensity of shaking, is measured on a numerical scale. On the scale, 3 or less is scarcely noticeable, and magnitude 7 (or more) causes damage over a wide area.

The ancient Chinese also used a device that looked like a jar with dragons on the top surrounded by frogs with their mouths open. When an earthquake occurred, a ball fitted into each dragon's mouth would drop out of the dragon's mouth into the frog's. The position of the frog which received a ball indicated the direction of the earthquake.


Causes of earthquakes

Fault types

Earthquakes are caused by tectonic movements in the Earth's crust. The main cause is that when tectonic plates collide, one rides over the other, causing orogeny (mountain building), earthquakes and volcanoes. See plate tectonics.

The boundaries between moving plates form the largest fault surfaces on Earth. When they stick, relative motion between the plates leads to increasing stress. This continues until the stress rises and breaks, suddenly allowing sliding over the locked portion of the fault, releasing the stored energy.

Earthquake fault types

There are three main types of fault that may cause an earthquake: normal, reverse (thrust) and strike-slip. Normal faults occur mainly in areas where the crust is being extended. Reverse faults occur in areas where the crust is being shortened. Strike-slip faults are steep structures where the two sides of the fault slip horizontally past each other.

Earthquake clusters

Most earthquakes form part of a sequence, related to each other in terms of location and time.[2] Most earthquake clusters consist of small tremors which cause little to no damage, but there is a theory that earthquakes can recur in a regular pattern.[3]


An aftershock is an earthquake that occurs after a previous earthquake, the mainshock. An aftershock is in the same region of the main shock but always of a smaller magnitude. Aftershocks are formed as the crust adjusts to the effects of the main shock.[2]

Earthquake swarms

Earthquake swarms are sequences of earthquakes striking in a specific area within a short period of time. They are different from earthquakes followed by a series of aftershocks by the fact that no single earthquake in the sequence is obviously the main shock, therefore none have notable higher magnitudes than the other. An example of an earthquake swarm is the 2004 activity at Yellowstone National Park.[4]

Earthquake storms

Sometimes a series of earthquakes occur in a sort of earthquake storm, where the earthquakes strike a fault in clusters, each triggered by the shaking or stress redistribution of the previous earthquakes. Similar to aftershocks but on adjacent segments of fault, these storms occur over the course of years, and with some of the later earthquakes as damaging as the early ones. Such a pattern occurred in Turkey in the 20th century.[5][6]


Some countries, such as Japan or parts of a country like California in the United States, have a lot of earthquakes. In these places it is a good practice to build houses and other buildings so they will not collapse when there is an earthquake. This is called seismic design or "earthquake-proofing".
File:Haiti National Palace
The Haitian National Palace after at the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

For many years earthquakes have occurred. That is why there are earthquake proof buildings. The ability of a building to withstand the stress of an earthquake depends upon its type of construction, shape, mass distribution, and rigidity. Different combinations are used. Different shapes of buildings such as square, rectangular, and shell buildings can withstand earthquakes far better than skyscrapers. To reduce stress, a building's ground floor can be supported by extremely rigid, hollow columns, while the rest of the building is supported by flexible columns located inside the hollow columns. A different method is to use rollers or rubber pads to separate the base columns from the ground, allowing the columns to shake parallel during an earthquake.

To help prevent a roof from collapsing you can make your roof out of light-weight materials. Outdoor walls can be made with stronger and more reinforced materials such as steel or reinforced concrete. During an earthquake flexible windows may help that can hold the windows together so they don’t break.


  1. Earth Science. Austin, Texas 78746-6487: Holt, Rinehart Winston. 2001. ISBN 0-03-055667-8. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "What are aftershocks, foreshocks, and earthquake clusters?". 
  3. "Repeating earthquakes". United States Geological Survey. January 29, 2009. Retrieved May 11, 2009. 
  4. "Earthquake swarms at Yellowstone". USGS. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  5. Amos Nur (2000). "Poseidon’s horses: plate tectonics and earthquake storms in the late [Bronze Age Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean"]. Journal of Archaeological Science 27: 43–63. doi:10.1006/jasc.1999.0431. ISSN 0305-4403. 
  6. "Earthquake storms". Horizon (BBCtv series). 9pm 1 April 2003. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 

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