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Shake Rattle and Roll! The Science of Earthquakes

by Kate Bannan on Thu, August 25, 2011

Earthquake Shake Map


A rare, powerful 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the East Coast United States on August 23. Damage was light, but millions of people were surprised and unnerved by the event. The earthquake occurred near Mineral, Virginia, about 100 miles southwest of Washington, DC. It was a shallow earthquake, and shaking was recorded all along the Appalachians, from Georgia to New England.  There have been several aftershocks and more are expected.

An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth'scrustthat creates seismic waves.  It is estimated that around 500,000 earthquakes occur each year, detectable with current instrumentation. About 100,000 of these can be felt.  Earthquakes are caused mostly by rupture of geological faults, but also by other events such as volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts, and nuclear tests.  Earthquakes may last only a few seconds or may continue for up to several minutes. They can occur at any time of the day or night and at any time of the year.

Minor earthquakes occur nearly constantly around the world in places like Californiaand Alaskain the United States, but earthquakes can occur almost anywhere. 

Scientists have learned a lot about earthquakes, but there is still much that we don't know, like how to accurately forecast them. 

Find out more about the science of earthquakes viaWorldWideSciencewhich contains research results from the U.S. Geological Service(USGS) and from countries around the world. 

WorldWideScience allows users to quickly search -- at no cost -- over 400 million pages of important science information across every inhabited continent with a single query, to simultaneously explore a multitude of nationally-sponsored science sources not readily available through any other search engine and to eliminate language barriers through multilingual translations across ten languages.  So start your search; you never know when the next big quake will hit.

Related OSTI Products: (WWS)
Other Related Topics: earthquake, USGS
Page last updated on 2017-08-11 04:16

About the Author

Kate Bannan's picture
Kate Bannan
Communication and Outreach Specialist

Kate Bannan is a Communications and Outreach Specialist for the Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) She develops and implements strategic communications and outreach programs to build awareness of OSTI, its programs and initiatives.