Pacific Ring of Fire a Volatile Place

February 6, 2013 · Posted in Disasters, Earthquakes, Volcanoes · Comments Off on Pacific Ring of Fire a Volatile Place 

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The Aleutian island chain, Andes mountains of South America and the Micronesia tropics make up  the geographical region known as the “Ring of Fire.” Plates underlying these areas on the Earth are made up of subduction zones. These are zones where oceanic tectonic plate go under a continental plate or another oceanic plate. This results in the increased volcanic and earthquake activity we have seen throughout history in this aptly named “Pacific Ring of Fire”.

The Solomon Islands are a part of this geographically volitile place, which saw a magnitude 8 earthquake in its nearby region today, Febuary 6, 2013, and has resulted in a Tsunami warning.

Tsunamis are the sometimes seen side effect when earthquakes rattle the ocean. See the definition of what a tsunami means:

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Super Earthquakes in History

February 6, 2013 · Posted in Disasters, Earthquakes · Comments Off on Super Earthquakes in History 
1. Chile 1960 05 22 9.5 -38.29 -73.05 Kanamori, 1977
2. Prince William Sound, Alaska 1964 03 28 9.2 61.02 -147.65 Kanamori, 1977
3. Off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra 2004 12 26 9.1 3.30 95.78 Park et al., 2005
4. Near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan 2011 03 11 9.0 38.322 142.369 PDE
5. Kamchatka 1952 11 04 9.0 52.76 160.06 Kanamori, 1977
6. Offshore Maule, Chile 2010 02 27 8.8 -35.846 -72.719 PDE
7. Off the Coast of Ecuador 1906 01 31 8.8 1.0 -81.5 Kanamori, 1977
8. Rat Islands, Alaska 1965 02 04 8.7 51.21 178.50 Kanamori, 1977
9. Northern Sumatra, Indonesia 2005 03 28 8.6 2.08 97.01 PDE
10. Assam – Tibet 1950 08 15 8.6 28.5 96.5 Kanamori, 1977
11. Off the west coast of northern Sumatra 2012 04 11 8.6 2.311 93.063 PDE
12. Andreanof Islands, Alaska 1957 03 09 8.6 51.56 -175.39 Johnson et al., 1994
13. Southern Sumatra, Indonesia 2007 09 12 8.5 -4.438 101.367 PDE
14. Banda Sea, Indonesia 1938 02 01 8.5 -5.05 131.62 Okal and Reymond, 2003
15. Kamchatka 1923 02 03 8.5 54.0 161.0 Kanamori, 1988
16. Chile-Argentina Border 1922 11 11 8.5 -28.55 -70.50 Kanamori, 1977
17. Kuril Islands 1963 10 13 8.5 44.9 149.6 Kanamori, 1977
Updated 2012 April 11


Largest Earthquakes Recorded

September 27, 2012 · Posted in Earthquakes · Comments Off on Largest Earthquakes Recorded 

Chile, 1960 – Magnitude 9.5

Approximately 1,655 people were killed during the largest earthquake ever recorded. Thousands more were injured, and millions were left homeless. Southern Chile suffered $550 million USD in damage.


Wrecked houses in Valdivia, Chile.
Credit: USGS.

The quake triggered a tsunami that killed 61 people in Hawaii, 138 in Japan and 32 in the Philippines.

The earthquake ruptured where the Nazca Plate dives underneath the South American Plate, on the Peru-Chile Trench.

Prince William Sound, Alaska, 1964 – Magnitude 9.2

This great earthquake and ensuing tsunami took 128 lives and caused about $311 million USD in property loss. The earthquake damage was heavy in many towns, including Anchorage, which was about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of the epicenter. The quake ruptured along a seismically active fault between the North American and Pacific plates. The shaking lasted about 3 minutes.

Landslides in Anchorage caused heavy damage. Huge slides occurred in the downtown business section and water mains and gas, sewer, telephone and electrical systems were disrupted throughout the area.

Off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra, 2004 – Magnitude 9.1

This quake was the third largest earthquake in the world, and the largest since the 1964 earthquake in Prince William Sound, Alaska (see entry #2). In total, 227,898 people were killed or missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in Southeast Asia and East Africa.

The tsunami caused more casualties than any other in recorded history, although some estimates say the death toll from the 2010 Haiti earthquake was larger. The tsunami was recorded nearly world-wide on tide gauges in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

This quake struck one day after Christmas along the interface of the India and Burma tectonic plates (huge, moving slabs of the Earth’s crust) and was caused by the release of stresses that develop as the India plate dives beneath the Burma plate

Near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan, 2011 – Magnitude 9.0
On March 11, a magnitude 9.0 quake triggered a tsunami that killed an estimated 29,000 people and damaged some nuclear reactors. This earthquake is the largest ever recorded in Japan.

Aftershocks continue to rock the island of Honshu. The aftershocks include more than 50 of magnitude 6.0 or greater, and three above magnitude 7.0.

The quake was caused by thrust faulting near the Japan Trench, the boundary between the Pacific and North America tectonic plates. Thrust faulting happens when one tectonic plate dives under another. In this case, the Pacific plate is diving under the North America plate

Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia, 1952 – Magnitude 9.0
The world’s first recorded magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the east coast of Kamchatka in 1952. The quake generated a 43-foot tsunami (13 m) locally. The tsunami rocked Crescent City, Calif., which was also hit hard by the recent Japan earthquake.

No lives were lost, but in Hawaii, property damage was estimated at up to $1 million USD. The waves tossed boats onto the beach, caused houses to collide, destroyed piers, scoured beaches and moved road pavement.

Kamchatka has a rumbling past and many active volcanoes. It was also hit by an 8.5 magnitude quake in 1923

Offshore Maule, Chile, 2010 – Magnitude 8.8

Just last year, at least 500 people were killed and 800,000 were displaced by the earthquake and tsunami that hit central Chile. More than 1.8 million people were affected and the total economic loss was estimated at $30 billion USD. Central Chile is still feeling aftershocks to this day.

The earthquake took place along the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates.

The quake hit just over a month after the disastrous magnitude 7.0 quake in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, which killed more than 200,000 people.

Off the Coast of Ecuador, 1906 – Magnitude 8.8
A catastrophic magnitude 8.8 earthquake ruptured off the coast of Ecuador and Colombia and generated a strong tsunami that killed 500 to 1,500 people. The tsunami spread along the coast of Central America, and even stretched to San Francisco and Japan.

The earthquake occurred along the boundary between the Nazca Plate and the South American Plate. It hit more than 100 years ago, so reports are spotty, but according the USGS, witnesses reported a huge rush of water in Honolulu Bay. All the steam and sailboats in the bay were turned around, and then a sudden flood tide roared inland.

Rat Islands, Alaska, 1965 – Magnitude 8.7
Alaska had been a state for only 7 years when this huge earthquake triggered a tsunami of over 30 feet (10 meters). Despite its size, the quake caused little damage due to its remote location at the tip of the Aleutian Islands.

The tsunami was reported in Hawaii and spread as far away as Japan.

The temblor was the result of the Pacific Plate diving beneath the North American Plate at the Alaska-Aleutian megathrust, which has been the location of many megathrust earthquakes.

The quake cracked wood buildings and split an asphalt runway. Hairline cracks also formed in the runways at the U.S. Coast Guard Loran Station.

Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, 2005 – Magnitude 8.6
More than 1,000 people were killed, with hundreds more injured, mostly in Nias, in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake hit just months after an even bigger earthquake destroyed the region (see entry #3).

The quake ruptured below the surface of the Indian Ocean, where the Indo-Australian Plate is pushing under the Eurasian plate at the Sunda trench, similar to the 2004 quake.

Assam-Tibet, 1950 – Magnitude 8.6
At least 1,500 people were killed across eastern Tibet and Assam, India, when this temblor shook the region. Ground cracks, large landslides and sand volcanoes hit in the area. The quake was felt in the Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces of China, and as far away as Calcutta, India.

The quake caused large landslides that blocked rivers. When the rivers finally burst through the walls of debris, waves inundated several villages and killed hundreds of people.

This quake is commonly called the Assam-Tibet earthquake or the Assam earthquake, even though the epicenter was in Tibet. The quake struck at the intersection of the most vigorous collision of continental plates on the planet, where the Indian continental plate smashes into the Eurasian plate and dives beneath it. The slow-motion crash helped create the massive Himalayas.

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