1. WHAT IS AN EARTHQUAKE, FOCUS AND EPICENTER?
Where is the earthquake focus? The focus of an earthquake is the point where the rocks start to
fracture. It is the origin of the earthquake. The epicenter is the point on land directly above the
Focus of an earthquake
The focus is also called the hypocenter of an earthquake. The vibrating waves travel away from
the focus of the earthquake in all directions. The waves can be so powerful they will reach all
parts of the Earth and cause it to vibrate like a turning fork.
Epicenter of an earthquake
Directly above the focus on the Earth's surface is the earthquake epicenter. Earthquake waves
start at he focus and travel outward in all directions. Earthquake waves do not originate at the
Most news stories on earthquakes will list the epicenter of an earthquake and then tell how deep
the earthquake was from the epicenter.
Shallow-focus earthquakes occur between 0 and 40 miles deep. Shallow-focus earthquakes are
much more common than deep-focus earthquakes. Crustal plates moving against each other
produce most of the shallow-focus earthquakes here on Earth.
Shallow-focus earthquakes are much more dangerous than deep-focus earthquakes. They release
75% of all the energy produced by earthquakes each year.
Deep-focus earthquakes occur 180 miles or more below the Earth's surface. These earthquakes
occur in island arc or deep ocean trenches where one plate is slipping over another in subduction