What is an earthquake?

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An earthquake is a shaking of the ground caused by the sudden breaking and movement of large sections (tectonic plates) of the earth's rocky outermost crust. The edges of the tectonic plates are marked by faults (or fractures). Most earthquakes occur along the fault lines when the plates slide past each other or collide against each other.

The shifting masses send out shock waves that may be powerful enough to

  • alter the surface of the Earth, thrusting up cliffs and opening great cracks in the ground and

  • cause great damage ... collapse of buildings and other man-made structures, broken power and gas lines (and the consequent fire), landslides, snow avalanches, tsunamis (giant sea waves) and volcanic eruptions.

Image source: U.S. Geological Survey

Fault or fault plane = the surface where when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another

Hypocenter = the location below the earth’s surface where the earthquake starts

Epicenter = the location on the surface of the earth directly above the hypocenter

"George Files" by Parenting the Next Generation