Chapter 12 Summary & Key Term Check

Chapter 12 Main Ideas

12.1 What Is an Earthquake?

An earthquake is the shaking that results when a deformed body of rock snaps back to its original shape. The rupture is initiated at a point but quickly spreads across the area of a fault, with aftershocks initiated by stress transfer. Episodic tremor and slip is a periodic slow movement, accompanied by harmonic tremors, along the middle part of a subduction zone boundary.

Practice Again


Can plastic deformation of Earth’s crust (deformation that is not reversible) cause an earthquake?

No. The vibration from earthquakes is a result of elastic rebound. This means that deformed rock has snapped back to its original shape. If deformation is not reversible, then elastic energy is not being stored, and rebound is not possible. Rocks may still be offset along a fault due to plastic deformation, but the offset happens as slow, creeping movement called aseismic slip (i.e., slip without seismicity/shaking).

12.2 Measuring Earthquakes

Earthquakes produce seismic waves that can be measured by a seismograph. The amplitudes of seismic waves are used to determine the amount of energy released by an earthquake- its magnitude. For the moment magnitude scale used today, the amount of energy released by an earthquake is proportional to the size of the rupture surface, the amount of displacement, and the strength of the rock. Intensity is a measure of the amount of shaking that occurs, and damage done at locations that experience an earthquake. Intensity will vary depending on the distance to the epicentre, the depth of the earthquake, and the type of geological materials present.

12.3 Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics

Most earthquakes happen at or near plate boundaries. Along divergent and transform boundaries earthquakes are shallow (less than 30 km depth), but at convergent boundaries they can be hundreds of kilometers beneath the surface. The largest earthquakes happen when a broad segment of the locked zone of a subduction zone ruptures. Intraplate earthquakes happen away from plate boundaries. They can be caused by human activities, or renewed motion on ancient faults.

12.4 The Impacts of Earthquakes

Damage to buildings is the most serious consequence of most large earthquakes. The amount of damage is related to the type and size of buildings, how they’re constructed, and the nature of the material on which they’re built. Other important consequences are fires, damage to bridges and highways, slope failures, liquefaction, and tsunami.

12.5 Forecasting Earthquakes and Minimizing Impacts

There is no reliable technology for predicting earthquakes, but the probability of one happening within a certain time period can be forecast. We can minimize earthquake impacts by ensuring that the public is aware of the risk, that building codes are enforced, that existing buildings like schools and hospitals are seismically sound, and that both public and personal emergency plans are in place.

Key Term Check

What key term from Chapter 12 is each card describing? Turn the card to check your answer.


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Physical Geology - H5P Edition Copyright © 2021 by Karla Panchuk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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