Geological Faults that Tear the Earth Apart

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Image: U.S. Geological Survey

An earthquake shaking the very foundations you live on would be jeopardy enough for most people to endure, but if upon stepping outside your home you were also to find massive fissures riddling the earth, cathedral-sized alarm bells would start ringing. Fear wouldn’t be the word. Cracks appearing in the ground during major seismic events is picture book stuff, but let’s see how they look for real, while considering the forces that cause them – and the effects they have.


Image: G. Plafker, U.S. Geological Survey

Cracks pass several feet in front of a house, Loma Prieta earthquake, CA, 1989.

Caused chiefly by rupturing geological faults, naturally occurring earthquakes happen almost constantly in seismic danger zones around the globe such as California, Alaska, Japan and Indonesia. Stored energy in the earth’s crust is suddenly released as if an omnipotent entity were playing with an elastic band, and the seismic waves created ripples out from the epicentre, sometimes to devastating effect.

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Image: G.K Gilbert, U.S. Geological Survey

Crack in the ground: Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Thankfully earthquakes of larger magnitudes happen less frequently, but when they do take place, they sure cause a scene. It is during these bigger quakes that folks are liable to themsleves start trembling as they witness the severe shaking that is one of the hallmarks of this natural hazard. And it is then that people are more likely to crack mentally as they see the ground beneath their feet begin to rip asunder.

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