Earthquakes are the result of plate tectonics, or shifting plates in the crust of Earth, and quakes occur when the frictional stress of gliding plate boundaries builds and causes failure at a fault line. In an earthquake, elastic strain energy is released and waves radiate, shaking the ground. Scientists can predict where major temblors might occur in a general sense, but research does not yet allow forecasts for specific locations or accurate predictions of timing. Major earthquakes, some generating tsunamis, have leveled entire cities and affected whole countries. Relatively minor earthquakes can also be induced, or caused by human activity, including extraction of minerals from Earth and the collapse of large buildings.
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Understanding Earth by Eavesdropping on Urban Noise
Oil field
January 14th, 2015
Researchers are tuning in to urban seismic noise, the man-made signals from human activity, to view geologic structures and track the rhythms of cities.
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Fracking Led to Ohio Earthquakes
drilling tower
January 5th, 2015
A hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, well in Ohio triggered scores of small earthquakes in March 2014, including one large enough to be felt in nearby towns.
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'Nature's Fury': NYC Exhibit Explores Science of Natural Disasters
Erupting volcano
November 13th, 2014
From the eruption that buried Pompeii in A.D. 79 to the superstorm that shut down New York City in 2012, natural disasters are an unavoidable part of life on Earth. Once thought to be the wrath of the gods, these formidable events now have widely accepted
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Jeepers! New Look at 'Creeping' San Andreas Fault
san andreas fault
January 13th, 2015
A small part of the San Andreas Fault thought to quietly slide without shaking its neighbors may be capable of magnitude-6 earthquakes, a new study finds.
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Mystery of Ancient Chinese Civilization's Disappearance Explained
sanxingdui bronze mask
December 24th, 2014
An ancient Chinese civilization that was mysteriously abandoned may have disappeared because of an earthquake that rerouted the city's water flow, new research suggests.
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Nature's Fury: Gripping Images of Natural Disasters
Campo tornado (Oklahoma, 2010)
November 13th, 2014
From earthquakes to volcanic eruptions to hurricanes, natural disasters reveal the fearsome power of Mother Nature. Scientists are studying these phenomena to better understand them and find better ways to predict and prepare for them.
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25 Years After Loma Prieta, Earthquake Science Is Transformed
Loma Prieta earthquake
October 17th, 2014
Earthquake science has kept pace with San Francisco's tremendous transformation since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
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Smart Defense: NFL Fans Will Help Test Earthquake Warning System
Seattle Seahawks CenturyLink Field
January 10th, 2015
Sports will further science this playoff season, as seismologists monitor the home stadium of the Seattle Seahawks during games in order to test a nascent earthquake early-warning system.
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Seismic Waves Show Which Sport's Fans Rock Hardest
Infrasound Instruments by Pit Row
December 23rd, 2014
Football, NASCAR and their rowdy, roaring crowds were pitted in a head-to-head battle this year to see which sport hits highest on the seismic charts.
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L'Aquila Earthquake Scientists Win Manslaughter Appeal
The destruction from the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake in Italy seen here in the nearby village of Casentino.
November 11th, 2014
Italian scientists convicted of manslaughter in connection with the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake won their appeal on Monday (Nov. 10).
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