What is surface faulting or surface rupture in an earthquake?

Surface rupture occurs when movement on a fault deep within the earth breaks through to the surface. NOT ALL earthquakes result in surface rupture.

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What is the difference between aftershocks and swarms?

Aftershocks are a sequence of earthquakes that happen after a larger mainshock on a fault. Aftershocks occur near the fault zone where the mainshock rupture occurred and are part of the "readjustment process” after the main slip on the fault. Aftershocks become less frequent with time, although they can continue for days, weeks, months, or even...

Do earthquakes occur in Antarctica?

Earthquakes do occur in Antarctica, but not very often. There have been some big earthquakes--including one magnitude 8 --in the Balleny Islands (between Antarctica and New Zealand). The boundary between the Scotia Plate and the Antarctic Plate just grazes the north tip of the Antarctic Peninsula (look "northwest" from the Pole toward South...

Where can I find earthquake educational materials?

Start with our Earthquake Hazards Education site. That includes: Earthquakes for Kids Cool Earthquake Facts Earthquake Science for Everyone Other good starting points include: State Geological Surveys for states in earthquake-prone regions The Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills website IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology), which...

Can we cause earthquakes? Is there any way to prevent earthquakes?

Earthquakes induced by human activity have been documented at many locations in the United States and in many other countries around the world. Earthquakes can be induced by a wide range of causes including impoundment of reservoirs, surface and underground mining, withdrawal of fluids and gas from the subsurface, and injection of fluids into...

At what depth do earthquakes occur? What is the significance of the depth?

Earthquakes occur in the crust or upper mantle , which ranges from the earth's surface to about 800 kilometers deep (about 500 miles). The strength of shaking from an earthquake diminishes with increasing distance from the earthquake's source, so the strength of shaking at the surface from an earthquake that occurs at 500km deep is considerably...

Why are there so many earthquakes in the Geysers area in Northern California?

The Geysers Geothermal Field is located in a tectonically active region of Northern California. The major seismic hazards in the region are from large earthquakes occurring along regional faults that are located miles away from the geothermal field, such as the San Andreas and Healdsburg-Rodgers Creek faults. However, activities associated with...

What is an earthquake and what causes them to happen?

An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault . The tectonic plates are always slowly moving, but they get stuck at their edges due to friction. When the stress on the edge overcomes the friction, there is an earthquake that releases energy in waves that travel through the earth's crust and cause the shaking that we feel. In California there...

Foreshocks, aftershocks - what's the difference?

"Foreshock" and "aftershock" are relative terms. Foreshocks are earthquakes that precede larger earthquakes in the same location. An earthquake cannot be identified as a foreshock until after a larger earthquake in the same area occurs. Aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that occur in the same general area during the days to years following a...

Can the position of the moon or the planets affect seismicity? Are there more earthquakes in the morning/in the evening/at a certain time of the month?

Earthquakes are equally as likely to occur in the morning or the evening. Many studies in the past have shown no significant correlations between the rate of earthquake occurrence and the semi-diurnal tides when using large earthquake catalogs. Several recent studies, however, have found a correlation between earth tides (caused by the position of...
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Date published: May 15, 2003

Denali Fault Quake Offers Clues for Hazards in Future Quakes, Science Magazine Reports

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and their partners studying the largest on-land earthquake in North America in almost 150 years report new information that will help further safety-planning efforts for future large quakes, according to an article published in the May 16, 2003, edition of the journal Science.

Date published: November 7, 2002

Alaska Interior Reveals Scars and Ruptures from 7.9 Denali Fault Quake

Sunday’s magnitude 7.9 earthquake in central Alaska created a scar across the landscape for more than 145 miles, according to surveys conducted the past two days by geologists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Survey.

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May 25, 2017

PubTalk 5/2017 — Underwater secrets of the Hayward fault zone

Title: Underwater Secrets of the Hayward Fault Zone: Integrated 3D imaging to understand earthquake hazards 

  • Underwater imaging provides a unique opportunity to study urban fault hazards.
  • How do we link surface structures to depths where earthquakes occur?
  • How does "acoustic trenching" help us understand earthquake history?
Image: 2014 South Napa CA M6 Earthquake - August 24
August 23, 2014

2014 South Napa CA M6 Earthquake - August 24

Pavement buckling and tented sidewalk resulting from ~14 cm of compression on Sandybrook Ln., north end of main rupture.

Image: Surface Fractures Along Fault
June 18, 2010

Surface Fractures Along Fault

Photograph of surface fractures along fault south of Pinto Wash; view to the northeast.

Image: Fractures on Ocotillo Fault
June 16, 2010

Fractures on Ocotillo Fault

Vertical surface fractures along Ocotillo Fault. Faulting here is associated with the nearby Mw5.7 aftershock of June 14, 2010. Tape measure for scale.

Image: Yuha Fault Fractures
May 11, 2010

Yuha Fault Fractures

Fault scarp (above change in slope) with fractures (white arrows) along Yuha Fault; view to the northwest. Yellow notebook (in center) for scale.

Image: Brawley Fault Zone Surface Fractures Across Road
April 9, 2010

Brawley Fault Zone Surface Fractures Across Road

Fresh surface fractures (black arrows) along Brawley Fault Zone and across Ralph Road in response to the 2010 El Mayor-Cucapah earthquake; view to the north. Slight vertical component of slip (2 mm, up on east [right] side) more noticeable at white arrow.

Image: Denali Fault: Canwell Glacier
November 12, 2002

Denali Fault: Canwell Glacier

The Denali fault offset crevasses on the Canwell Glacier.

Image: Totschunda Fault
November 5, 2002

Totschunda Fault

Near the southeast extent of the surface rupture of the Totschunda fault thrust faulting pushed the frozen sand and gravel over the snow surface.

Image: Totschunda Fault
November 5, 2002

Totschunda Fault

View southeast along the Totschunda fault.

Image: Denali Fault
November 4, 2002

Denali Fault

At pass west of Delta River. Here there was roughly 5 m of offset. Note the push up in the background. There is permafrost at the bottom of the cracks.

Image shows an aerial view of the San Andreas Fault
November 30, 2000

San-Andreas Fault

Aerial photo of the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain. By Ikluft - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3106006

Image: Fault Through a Pasture
September 2, 1999

Fault Through a Pasture

The fault is clearly expressed through this pasture at N40 41.959', E030 30.196'. Offset of a small road is 2.4 m (a maximum).