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  • 1. What is an earthquake?
    • Shaking or vibration of the ground
    • rocks undergoing deformation break suddenly along a fault
    1906 San Francisco earthquake
  • 2. Oblique view of the San Andreas fault and San Francisco
  • 3. Where are earthquakes found?
    • The Earth’s surface is composed of a number of mobile “ tectonic plates ” which are in constant motion
    • Most earthquakes are found at plate margins
  • 4. Plate tectonics
    • The constant movement of the plates is referred to as plate tectonics
    • There are three main types of plate boundaries:
      • divergent
      • convergent
      • transform
  • 5. Divergent margins
    • Here two tectonic plates are in the process of being created
    • Magma is injected into a crack, then cools and becomes new crust
  • 6. An example of a wide, mature divergent margin
    • The middle of the Atlantic Ocean is a divergent margin which is being torn, or rifted, apart…the two plates are separating continuously at a rate of several cm/yr
  • 7. An immature divergent plate margin
    • The Red Sea represents a young rift which is just beginning to separate Arabia from Africa…
    • Here, too, volcanism is evident, as a result of rifting
  • 8. Volcanism in the Afar triangle
    • ‘ Erta ‘Ale, a volcano slightly west of the Red Sea, represents the splitting apart and thinning of the African continent
  • 9. Convergent margins I
    • Instead of two plates being created, they are being consumed…
    • Here an oceanic plate slides beneath a continental plate, since the former is denser
    • geologists refer to this process as subduction
    • Large, destructive earthquakes occur here
  • 10. Convergent margins II
    • If two continental plates collide, they do not subduct, because they are too buoyant
    • Instead, intense compression with crustal shortening and thickening occur
    • Large, destructive earthquakes also are generated in this situation
  • 11. Transform margins
    • The third type of plate margin is called a transform boundary
    • Here, plates are neither created nor destroyed…
    • they simply slide by one another
  • 12. So here’s the big picture of what we’re living on
  • 13. Where are the world’s earthquakes in terms of plate tectonics?
    • The great majority of earthquakes are located at plate margins
    • This where magmatism, friction, faulting, etc., are most intense
    • Earthquakes in plate interiors are comparatively rare
  • 14.  
  • 15. The Pacific Rim of Fire
    • This notorious zone is characterized by subduction zones
    • Earthquakes and volcanoes here are particularly violent
    • friction from subduction produces large destructive quakes
  • 16. North American seismic hazards
  • 17. Canadian seismic hazards
  • 18. Seismic hazard in eastern Canada
  • 19. Faults associated with earthquakes
    • Faults are planes of weakness along which the Earth has been broken
    • Movements on a fault can be either slow (ductile deformation) or fast (brittle fracture)
    • When a fault behaves in a brittle manner and breaks, earthquakes are generated
  • 20. Three types of dominantly vertical faults
    • A normal fault is the result of tensional forces (e.g., rifting)
    • Reverse and thrust faults are the result of horizontal compression
  • 21. Faults whose movement is dominantly horizontal
    • These faults are termed strike-slip faults
    • They are a small-scale version of transform plate tectonic margins
    • They are termed left-lateral (sinistral) or right-lateral (dextral) according to their movement
  • 22. Earthquake generation along a fault
    • The earthquake focus is its point of origin along a fault plane
    • Its epicenter is the vertical projection of the focus to the surface
  • 23. Elastic rebound theory
    • Before fault rupture, rock deforms
    • after rupture, rocks return to their original shape…
    • ...maybe 1
    • 1 Pallett Creek shows similar slip amounts after different periods of time; possibly not resetting to zero? See Sieh and Levay, 1998, p. 90
  • 24. Richter magnitudes
    • The Richter magnitude measures the maximum amplitude of ground shaking
    • It is a logarithmic scale
    • 1 Richter unit difference is x 10 for ground motion and x 33 for energy
    • Globally, small earthquakes are more frequent than large:
    • ~800,000/yr for events of magnitude 2.0-3.4
    • while an event of magnitude 8 occurs once every 5-10 years
  • 25. Richter magnitudes
  • 26. Destructiveness of an earthquake
    • Earthquake magnitude
    • Distance to epicenter
    • Depth
    • Strength of building
    • Nature of soil or bedrock on which foundations are built
    • Other local conditions
  • 27. A challenge
    • You yourself can calculate Richter magnitudes and epicenters from seismogram data. Go to:
    • Not only will you understand the science behind earthquake determinations, there are also material rewards ...
  • 28. Diplomas !
  • 29. The San Andreas fault
    • Along much of the west coast, the plate boundary is a transform margin
  • 30. San Andreas fault
    • Although some people think San Francisco is “falling” into the Pacific Ocean, part of the city is actually already part of the Pacific plate
    • The San Andreas is a right-lateral strike-slip or transform fault
  • 31. San Andreas fault
  • 32. Right-lateral motion Photos from Shelton, 1966
  • 33. Right-lateral motion Photo, diagram from Sieh and LeVay, 1998
  • 34. Some history
    • The strike-slip nature of the San Andreas was not widely appreciated for up to 50 years after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake
    • Yet rocks on either side of the fault are different
    • The older the rocks, the greater the displacement
    • Eocene-age rocks (37-58 Ma) show offsets up to 300 km
  • 35. San Francisco, 18 April 1906
    • Magnitude 7.8, epicenter near San Francisco
    • $ 400 million US in damage
    • this is 1906 dollars ; equivalent to hundreds of billions of dollars today
    • ~700 people reported killed
    • this is probably a 3-4 times underestimate ; thus 2,000-3,000 dead, mostly in San Francisco
  • 36. 1906 - location and seismic trace Seismic trace of 1906 quake from a seismic station 15,000 miles away in Gottingen, Germany
  • 37. 1906 - comparative magnitude
    • This event is northern California’s most powerful event in recorded history
  • 38. 1906 - extent and slip The northernmost 430 km of the San Andreas ruptured, with horizontal slippage up to 8-9 meters
  • 39. 1906 - slip
    • This photograph shows a fence near Bolinas offset 2.5 meters
  • 40. 1906 - intensity and shaking
    • Maximum Mercalli values were VII to IX, which represent severe damage
    • Shaking lasted 45-60 seconds (for Loma Prieta 1989 and Northridge 1994, shaking lasted 5-10 s)
    • Shaking intensity correlated with geology, e.g., bedrock vs. landfill
  • 41. 1906 - earthquake damage in San Francisco
  • 42. 1906 - earthquake damage in San Francisco
  • 43. 1906 - earthquake damage in San Francisco
  • 44. 1906 - some lessons learned
    • Big quakes can be followed by decades of seismic quiet
    • Quakes the size of the 1906 event appear to occur every several hundred (200?) years
  • 45. 1906 - some lessons learned (ctd.)
    • In the short term, San Francisco and environs are most at risk from an event of magnitude 6-7
  • 46. 1906 - some lessons not learned A topographic map of San Francisco from 1950... … and a 1980 version of the same map
  • 47. Future quakes in the San Francisco Bay area Note the high probability of an earthquake of M > 6.6 occurring before 2030 in this area
  • 48. Cascadia
    • In the Pacific Northwest, the tectonic regime is subduction-related , rather than transform as we have seen in California
  • 49. Cascadia Here, there is evidence for very large earthquakes over the last several thousand years…the most recent is 300 years ago
  • 50. Quebec
    • The St. Lawrence region has high levels of seismicity for a zone in the interior of a tectonic plate
    • This seismicity may be related to old, aborted rifts about 200 Ma ago
    Map from Lamontagne (1999)
  • 51. Quebec - Montreal region
    • Ottawa River axis
    • more active Montreal-Maniwoki axis
    • M 5.8, 1732, Montreal
    • M 6.2, 1935, Temiscamingue
    • M 5.6, 1944, Cornwall-Massena, NY
  • 52. Quebec - Charlevoix region
    • Events: 1638; M7 1663; M6 1791; M6.5 1870; M6.2 1925 ($ 2 million in damage at the time)
    • fracturing and high pore fluid pressures
    • old rift faults serving as conduits for pressurized crustal fluids, which trigger quakes
  • 53. Charlevoix Charlevoix also has evidence for a meteorite impact crater, which served to fragment and fracture rocks (from Lamontagne, 1999)
  • 54. Effects of earthquakes: aftershocks
    • Aftershocks normally occur after a major earthquake
    • There may be many thousands of aftershock events over the space of months or even years
    • Although their magnitudes generally decrease with time, aftershocks have potential to cause significant damage to already weakened materials (e.g., rocks, soils, buildings, power and gas lines)
  • 55. Effects: liquefaction
    • Wet, unsolidated soils and sediments are highly vulnerable
    • Under shaking, the ground simply flows
    • Landfills, harbours, and the like are at risk
    Liquefaction hazard in the San Francisco Bay area
  • 56. Effects: landslides
    • The ground vibrations and severe shaking associated with an earthquake can induce landslides in mountainous areas
    • This example in the Santa Susana Mtns. was caused by the 1994 Northridge event near Los Angeles
  • 57. Effects: tsunamis
    • Tsunamis are ocean waves caused by displacements from earthquakes, landslides, etc.
    • They can be devastating at great distances from the epicenter
    Tsunami damage in Hilo, Hawaii, as a result of the 22 May 1960 Chile earthquake
  • 58. Effects: building destruction
    • Buildings are damaged or destroyed by ground vibrations and shaking
    • The magnitude and duration of shaking are important factors in the extent of damage
    • Liquefaction and aftershocks increase the damage
    Building damage near the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake
  • 59. Effects on building materials
    • Masonry is not capable of withstanding significant bending stresses
    • Wood is more resistant because it is more yielding
    • But wood is vulnerable to fires ...
  • 60. Effects: fires
    • The ground shaking will rupture power and gas lines…
    • … and damage to water mains prevents or hinders fire fighting efforts
    • the photo shows a broken gas line from the 1994 Northridge earthquake
  • 61. Devastating fires in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake
  • 62. Effects: personal loss
    • We are examining earthquakes from a scientific perspective…
    • … but we must not forget the human element and the pathos conveyed by this photograph from the 1994 Northridge earthquake
  • 63. Mitigating earthquakes
    • Seismic hazard maps and risk maps help to properly site and construct buildings
  • 64. Where to build your dream or trophy house - and where not to build
    • Avoid unstable soils and unconsolidated materials...
    • avoid mountainous terrain prone to landslides…
    • and above all, avoid active faults !
  • 65. Appropriate building codes which can withstand earthquake damage
    • Bedrock foundations best
    • Avoid asymmetrical buildings
    • Bolt house firmly to foundations
    • Appliances firmly bolted down
    • Gas lines flexible
    • Cupboards, shelving attached to walls
    • Heavy objects at low levels; anchor heavy furniture
    • Beds away from windows to avoid broken glass
  • 66. Warning and prediction
    • Precursory seismicity
    • Precursory deformation
    • Changes in physical properties of rocks near a fault
    • Changes in water levels, soil gases
    • Unusual behaviour of animals
  • 67. Earthquake prediction
    • Important concepts:
    • earthquake recurrence interval…seismic gap
    • role of paleoseismology
    • Yet our predictive ability is rudimentary , so we use probabilities
    • e.g., 86% probability that a destructive quake of M>7 will hit southern California in the next 30 years (1994 estimate)
  • 68. Earthquakes - reading
    • U.S. Geological Survey, 1999. Major quake likely to strike between 2000 and 2030. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 152-99, 4 pp. ( )
    • Pelman, D., 2000. Tiny movements ease fault risk in East Bay; pressure builds up less in northern Hayward segment. San Francisco Chronicle, 18 August 2000. ( )
    • Eastern Canadian seismicity:
  • 69. Earthquakes - web
    • Canadian seismicity:
    • US seismicity:
    • San Francisco Bay area: