USGS logo


Introduction

One of the most frightening and destructive phenomena of nature is a severe earthquake and its terrible aftereffects. An earthquake is a sudden movement of the Earth, caused by the abrupt release of strain that has accumulated over a long time. For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the Earth as the huge plates that form the Earth's surface slowly move over, under, and past each other. Sometimes the movement is gradual. At other times, the plates are locked together, unable to release the accumulating energy. When the accumulated energy grows strong enough, the plates break free. If the earthquake occurs in a populated area, it may cause many deaths and injuries and extensive property damage.


Full size image - 155k

Today we are challenging the assumption that earthquakes must present an uncontrollable and unpredictable hazard to life and property. Scientists have begun to estimate the locations and likelihoods of future damaging earthquakes. Sites of greatest hazard are being identified, and definite progress is being made in designing structures that will withstand the effects of earthquakes.


Many buildings in Charleston, South Carolina, were damaged or destroyed by the large earthquake that occured August 31, 1886. - 87k



Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/earthq1/intro.html
Page Contact Information: GS Pubs Web Contact
Page Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2013, 11:12:48 AM