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Earthquakes

  • By: David E. Alexander
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Earthquakes involve the travel of elastic, or seismic, waves of energy through the Earth's rigid crust. They result from the sudden liberation of accumulated stress and strain along faults, which are planar discontinuities in the crust. Around the world, more than 3,000 seismic events occur each year, but few of them are damaging or lethal. However, when major earthquakes occur in highly populated areas, they can cause major destruction and death tolls in the thousands.

Distribution of Seismicity

The global distribution of seismicity is conditioned by the pattern of tectonic plates, which is a function of patterns of convection in the Earth's mantle and variations in the planet's spin rate. Most earthquakes are concentrated at the plate margins and in particular around the subduction zones, where crustal ...

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