Earthquakes happen when the moving tectonic plates that make up the surface of the Earth move apart or bump into each other, or slide under each other. Several times a year, though, somewhere in the world there is enough movement to really shake the earth a lot, and the earthquake is serious enough to knock down buildings.
The Richter scale (or ML scale) rates earthquakes on an exponential scale, so that if an earthquake is rated 1, you can hardly feel it, but an earthquake rated 2 is ten times as strong as an earthquake rated 1, and an earthquake rated 3 is ten times as strong as an earthquake rated 2. Because at least some other planets, like Mars and the moons of Jupiter, have tectonic plates like Earth, they probably also have earthquakes. (formerly "History for Kids") is entirely supported by your generous donations and by our sponsors. Earthquakes are measured by something called a Richter scale (a scale from 1 to 10 used to measure the strength of earthquakes, the higher number the stronger tremors.) Earthquakes can be felt over large areas although they usually last less than one minute! That the shaking in earthquakes can also trigger landslides and occasionally volcanic activity! When a large earthquake epicentre (point where an earthquake starts) is located off land, the seabed sometimes suffers enough displacement to cause a tsunami! Countries which are badly affected by earthquakes include Japan, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Pacific Islands, California's North Coast and San Francisco. The Philippines, which lies between two of the world’s most active tectonic plates, experiences an average of five earthquakes per day, most of which are hardly noticeable! Earthquakes, that can cause the ground to shake and buildings to sway and even tumble to the ground are definitely serious events, but why and how they occur provides some brilliant insight into the world that exists deep beneath our feet.

An earthquake actually happens many more times than we realize, but most of these are very minor movements that barely register on the seismographs, which are the recording instruments, used to monitor the movements deep underground. While the main shock is what we associate most with earthquakes, there are some other earth motions to be familiar with.
Aftershocks are tremors and smaller earthquakes that occur after the main shock, and while smaller than the big quake they follow, they can still create a lot of damage because many buildings have already been weakened at this time. Let’s take a look and see what actually happens inside the earth during an earthquake. The crust and the mantle combine to make up what seems like a solid layer of ground that we walk on but it really is constructed more like a giant puzzle and the pieces slide back and forth a little bit at a time.
The seismographs are the machines that actually record the movements of the earth and can tell scientists how powerful the earthquake was.
The largest earthquake ever recorded in the world was one in Chile in 1960 that measured 9.5 on a scale of 1-10. Other western states, like Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Oregon are prone to earthquakes or can be damaged by earthquakes that happen in Alaska and California. Take the FREE & fun all about Earthquakes quiz and download FREE all about Earthquakes worksheet for kids.
There may be as many as 500,000 earthquakes a year but only part of these is really noticeable. These aftershocks will happen in the same area as the main quake and they can continue for days, or even months or years.

The largest earthquake in the US was in 1964 in Alaska and the magnitude of that one was 9.2. Most often, this just means a little shaking for a few seconds, and nothing very serious happens. In a level 2 earthquake, a few people who are resting may feel it, especially if they're near the top of a tall building. When these plates move against each other, they cause activity such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain building!! The trembling of the foreshocks alert scientists to the activity that is going on in one location deep inside the earth but until the main shock happens they do not know if these early, small rumbling quakes are only movements in the earth or signs of a quake that is about to happen. Some animals will exhibit nervous behavior and attempt to hide or leave the area immediately before an earthquake happens. The epicentre is also the location that has the most damage, although the damage and motion may be obvious for great distances. This is also an area of intense study and research because it would be of tremendous value to be able to use foreshocks to predict the larger quakes before they happen. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

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