Can the ground open up during an earthquake?

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Episode Number: 11

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Location Taken: US

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Welcome to CoreFacts, where we're always short on time and big on science. I'm Steve Sobieszczyk. Let's get right to it, today's question is:

Can the ground open up during an earthquake?

A popular cinematic and literary device is a fault that opens during an earthquake to swallow up an inconvenient character. But unfortunately for principled writers, gaping faults exist only in movies and novels. The ground moves across a fault during an earthquake, not away from it. If the fault could open, there would be no friction. Without friction, there would be no earthquake. Shallow crevasses can form during earthquake induced landslides, lateral spreads, or other types of ground failures. Faults, however, do not gape open during an earthquake.

And now you know. Join us again tomorrow as we'll give you yet another new CoreFact. If you're interested in previous CoreFacts, or would like to check out CoreCast, our in-depth science podcast, browse over to usgs.gov/podcasts. If you would like to contact us here at the show or submit a question you think we should answer on the air, you can email us at corefacts@usgs.gov or leave us a voicemail at 703-648-5600. Remember, long distance fees do apply.

The USGS CoreFacts is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior.

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