March 2 – Boom Shake-A-Lotta!

Today’s factismal: The Earth may have had the strongest earthquake for 2016.

One of the most amazing things about the Earth is something that very few people outside of geologists think about: the Earth has earthquakes. A lot of earthquakes. And one reason that earthquakes are amazing is what they can tell us about the inside of the Earth. When earthquakes travel through the Earth, they are changed by the various layers in the Earth. Using a technique similar to a CAT scan (indeed, the medicos stole the idea from the geophysicists), we can learn things such as where old plates go to die and where water is stored in the mantle.

This look into the Earth's interior is thanks to earthquakes (Image courtesy USGS)

This look into the Earth’s interior is thanks to earthquakes
(Image courtesy USGS)

Another reason that earthquakes are amazing is because we can say so much for sure about them. For example, we know that the largest earthquake that we could have is a magnitude 9.5; anything larger than that would require a fault that is simply too long to exist. And we know that on average, we get two magnitude 7.8 (or larger) earthquakes each year which means that today’s Mb 7.8 temblor in Indonesia is probably the largest earthquake we’ll have all year.  We even know where we’ll have earthquakes and what sort of damage they’ll do, thanks to research done by citizen scientists like you.

This hazard map was created using data from citizen scientists (Image courtesy USGS)

This hazard map was created using data from citizen scientists
(Image courtesy USGS)

You see, after each earthquake, people who felt it have gone to the Did You Feel It? page and told the USGS what they felt. That helped the geophysicists to determine which parts of the USA (and elsewhere) were most susceptible to earthquake damage which tells our politicians which parts of the USA need to improve their building codes and emergency response.

The results of Did You Feel It? for the past decade (Image courtesy USGS)

The results of Did You Feel It? for the past decade
(Image courtesy USGS)

If you’d like to help, participating is easy. The next time you feel an earthquake, go over to Did You Feel It? and let them know what you felt. Then sit back and enjoy the knowledge that you’ve just helped make us all a little bit safer.

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