An earthquake is an earth-shaking event. When the tectonic plates deep under the Earth’s crust shift or move against each other, shock waves travel up to the surface of the Earth. These shockwaves are what we experience as an earthquake.
Some parts of the world are more earthquake-prone than others since they sit on what is commonly referred to as “earthquake belts.” These regions are usually found around the Pacific Ocean edges and in the center of the Atlantic Ocean.
That said, earthquakes are an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon that seismologists cannot accurately predict in terms of occurrence or size. Here are four facts about earthquakes that are bound to shake you.
1. The Greatest Risk Isn’t the Earthquake. It’s the Buildings
Earthquakes do not outrightly kill people. Manmade structures do! The two factors at play here are engineering and geology.
A region with more loose soil and gravel will experience more prolonged quakes from an earthquake than a stable rocky surface. Similarly, buildings that are engineered to withstand earthquakes will suffer little to no damage. However, those that were not engineered to resist the shaking of an earthquake will cause death and destruction as they topple over.
2. The ‘Ring of Fire’ Records 80% Of the World’s Earthquakes
The Pacific Ocean’s aptly named Ring of Fire is a region known for having the most active volcanoes. Numbers total 450 and register the most earthquakes in the world. This area is found along the outer belt of the Pacific Ocean and is also known as Circum-Pacific Belt.
Thanks to the abundance of tectonic plates in this region, earthquakes that occur here are known to be quite violent and dramatic. The most historic earthquake that happened in the Ring of Fire was the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. It claimed 3,000 lives and left half of the city destitute.
3. The Earthquake Felt Around the World
Typically, we can feel earthquake shocks as far as 60 miles to 250 miles from their epicenter. However, the Valdivian earthquake that struck Chile in 1960 sent seismic waves that were felt worldwide! It goes down in history as the most powerful earthquake that has ever occurred in modern history.
Not only was this the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in history, but it also left a whopping 2 million people homeless and a trail of death and destruction across 621 miles. In addition to the horror in the wake of this earthquake, its aftershocks triggered a massive tsunami that wreaked havoc in coastal towns as far away as New Zealand and Japan.
4. Alaska Is the Most Earthquake-Prone State
If you don’t like earthquakes, don’t move to Alaska. Alaska records the highest number of earthquakes in the US. Located on the Ring of Fire, this state sits smack on top of the junction of two of Earth’s tectonic plates. Alaska experienced the second-largest earthquake ever recorded on Earth—after the Valdivian earthquake.
This earthquake registered an impressive reading of 9.2 on the Richter scale. After this quake, the state of Alaska recorded another 194 earthquakes in the span of one day!
Shake, Rattle, and Roll
Earthquakes are spectacular natural phenomena that are both awe-inspiring and scary. They happen without warning—not even scientists can predict when they will occur. Maybe that’s the most shaking fact of them all. Furthermore, we can’t foresee the far-reaching effects of earthquakes. But with some human ingenuity and safety training, we can show those tectonic plates that nothing can shake us!