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.
More than 2,500 people died when a powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Morocco on Sept. 8.
Over 10,000 earthquakes have hit the Noto Peninsula over the last three years. They are believed to be emanating from an long-dead volcano, with fluids pushing through the collapsed system.
GPS data can track slight tremors underground that could help predict earthquakes two hours in advance.
Scientists calculated the diameter of Earth's innermost core using earthquake waves that bounced through the planet 'like ping-pong balls.'
The Feb. 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria was so deadly because the region sits on a boundary between multiple tectonic plates, while soil and building conditions make strong earthquakes more likely to cause damage.
The amount of energy released in an earthquake is controlled by how much of the crust breaks. The good news is, we're not likely to see a magnitude 10.
A handful of regions around the world regularly unleash terrifyingly large earthquakes. Here are the 20 largest earthquakes on record.
The dinosaur-killing Chicxulub impact triggered a months-long mega-earthquake that left its mark in the rock.
The gigantic megaquake is matched only by the 1960 Valdivia earthquake in the same region.
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.
Thank you for signing up to Live Science. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.