Where Do Earthquakes Occur?

 Where Do Earthquakes Occur?

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/earthquake-crack-cracked-damage-5730256/

The surface of the planet is made of the crust, a rock layer that sits on top of magma. The continents are made of tougher granite and the ocean crust is made of basalt. The crust has fault lines which are cracks in the rock. Where these meet outline the different tectonic plates. Earthquakes generally happen in these areas where two plates meet at a crack in the crust. 

The Earth is made up of 15 plates, 7 major and 8 minor plates. When one of these plates slides against another one or slides under another one (both instances generally causing volcanic activity), an earthquake happens. The Pacific Ring of Fire is an earthquake belt that experiences 81% of the largest earthquakes in the world due to oceanic plates sliding under continental plates causing volcanoes. 

Earthquakes can occur anywhere at any time, but there are three places where earthquakes generally occur. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge, along the Alpide Belt, and along the Pacific Ring Of Fire. 

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Thingvellir, Iceland. Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/%C3%BEingvellir-continental-drifting-1350906/

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge starts in Svalbard, Norway and extends to the South Sandwich Islands right down the center of the Atlantic Ocean. The ridge is a split in the seafloor where plates are moving apart, exposing magma under the ocean causing volcanic activity, earthquakes, and seamounts. The ridge is a combination of the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate, the South American Plate and the African Plate moving apart at a rate of about 2.5 cm per year.

The Alpide Belt

Tannheim, Austria. Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/rough-horn-alpine-2146181/

The Alpide Belt is where 17% of the earthquakes in the world occur. The Alpide Belt starts out in the Atlantic Ocean and stretches between Spain and Morocco, through the Alps and Italy, across Turkey and Iran, up into China, and then through Malaysia and Indonesia out into the Pacific Ocean. The fault lines that connect create immense earthquakes and the mountainous regions are proof of the tectonic activity. As more tectonic activity happens along the Alpide Belt, more earthquakes occur.  

The Pacific Ring Of Fire 

Pacific Ring Of Fire. Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/earth-black-and-white-globe-1504059/

81% of the largest earthquakes occur in the Pacific Ring Of Fire. This is a ring of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean. The belt starts in Chile and runs north including the Pacific coasts of Mexico, California, Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands. It continues to Japan, the Philippines, New Guinea, and New Zealand. The belt is a chain of deep trenches, young volcanoes, edges of tectonic plates, and other geological features that have a tendency to cause earthquakes. 

The world's 5 most earthquake-prone countries include China, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, and Japan. China has experienced more earthquakes than any other country, 157 earthquakes from 1900 to 2016. Indonesia has experienced the second most with 113 earthquakes of significant magnitude between 1900 and 2016. Iran has had 106 earthquakes from 1900 to 2016. Japan and Turkey have had substantial earthquakes that have levelled buildings and caused major damage due to their placement on fault lines. 

Not everywhere is vulnerable to extreme earthquakes, but almost everywhere can experience an earthquake and depending on how close to a fault line or volcano the location is depends on how often earthquakes will occur and how strong they will be.