19 Effects of Earthquake on the Environment

Earthquakes happen all throughout the world and surely there are effects of earthquakes on the environment. this is because an earthquake is a natural disaster. 

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge (an underwater line that runs down the Atlantic ocean), the Alpide belt (which stretches from the Mediterranean to Southeast Asia), and the Circum-Pacific belt (which traces along the edge of the pacific ocean and is where about 80% of all earthquakes occur) are the three regions where the majority of earthquakes occur.

Because of what is beneath the surface, these places experience the most earthquakes.

What is an Earthquake?

According to WHO,

An earthquake can be defined as the shaking of the earth caused by waves moving on and below the earth’s surface and causing: surface faulting, tremors vibration, liquefaction, landslides, aftershocks and/or tsunamis.

An earthquake is caused by a sudden slip on a fault. An earthquake is the sudden release of strain energy in the Earth’s crust, resulting in waves of shaking that radiate outwards from the earthquake source. When stresses in the crust exceed the strength of the rock, it breaks along lines of weakness, either a pre-existing or new fault plane.

The point where an earthquake starts is termed the focus or hypocentre and maybe many kilometres deep within the earth. The point at the surface directly above the focus is called the earthquake epicentre. Earthquakes are the result of pressure specifically pressure caused by extreme stress in the Earth’s crust. That stress can be caused by volcanic activity or even man-made activities in certain areas.

The movement of tectonic plates causes the majority of earthquakes that produce stress. Tectonic plates are constantly and slowly moving against, along, or beneath one other, yet their edges can sometimes grab and stick. Continue to move, or at the very least try to avoid the attempted movement. Fields around the edges stay together, exerting enormous pressure until the edges give way and the plates slip.

When the stress on the edge overcomes the friction, a powerful and rapid release of energy occurs, breaking the earth’s crust. This breaking sends shock waves through the ground, causing powerful vibrations or quakes. In fact, the world’s most earthquake-prone places are where geological plates collide.

Seismographs record earthquakes and other seismic events. The seismographs oscillate when the earth shakes, generating a jagged line to indicate the movement. The recorded motions are then utilized to measure the strength or magnitude of the jagged the higher the height of the jagged.

While there are various magnitude scales to choose from, seismologists prefer the moment magnitude scale. It has no upper limit and logarithmically measures earthquakes. This means that, unlike the now-rarely used Richter scale, each magnitude on the moment magnitude scale is ten times higher than the one before it. The moment magnitude scale may be applied globally and can quantify quakes of the highest magnitude.

In 1960, the strongest earthquake ever recorded happened near Bolivia, Chile. The Valdivia earthquake, which occurred within the circum-pacific belt, was the most powerful of a series of quakes that shook the region, with a magnitude of roughly 9.5.

In addition to creating land vibrations, the earth unleashed a catastrophic tsunami that reached heights of up to 80 feet. The tsunami swept across the Pacific, wreaking havoc on countries as wide apart as the Philippines and Japan. The shock waves released by the Valdivia earthquake, in fact, continued to rock the entire planet for days, according to seismographs.

When an earthquake strikes, some communities have devised various methods to protect their communal structures, and bridges are built to wobble rather than break. The public is taught how to protect themselves in the event of a seismic catastrophe, and government authorities conduct exercises to guarantee that their citizens are safe.

Earthquakes cause enormous havoc, but they have also created magnificent features, each of which adds to the planet’s unique character.

Types of Earthquakes

There are four different types of earthquakes and they include

  • Tectonic Earthquakes
  • Volcanic Earthquakes
  • Collapse Earthquakes
  • Induced or Explosion Earthquakes

1. Tectonic Earthquakes

A tectonic earthquake occurs when the earth’s crust fractures due to geological forces acting on rocks and plates adjacent to it, causing physical and chemical changes. Tectonic quakes are earthquakes induced by plate tectonics.

They are responsible for the majority of earthquakes around the planet, and they typically occur around tectonic plate boundaries. Its size could be tiny or enormous. The majority of the planet’s mass destruction has been produced by tectonic earthquakes. Tremors caused by tectonic earthquakes are always violent, and if their magnitude is large enough, they can bring a metropolis to its knees in seconds.

2. Volcanic Earthquakes

Volcanic earthquakes are less common than tectonic earthquakes. Any earthquake that occurs as a result of tectonic forces associated with the volcanic activity is referred to as a volcanic earthquake. They usually happen before or after a volcanic eruption. Long-period volcanic earthquakes and volcano-tectonic earthquakes are two types of volcanic earthquakes. After a volcanic eruption, volcano-tectonic earthquakes are common.

Magma bursts from within the earth’s crust during an earthquake, leaving a void behind. After a magma explosion, the empty area must be filled. As rocks rush towards the space to fill it, violent earthquakes occur.

During volcanic activity, magma has blocked the vents several times. This indicates that excessive pressure is not being released. The pressure builds up to the point that it can no longer be tolerated, and it explodes in a huge explosion. A devastating earthquake occurs as a result of the tremendous explosion.

After a volcanic eruption, however, a long period of volcanic earthquake occurs. The magma inside the earth’s crust sees dramatic variations in temperatures a few days before the huge explosion. Seismic waves are triggered by a change in temperature, resulting in an earthquake.

3. Collapse Earthquakes

Small earthquakes triggered by seismic waves created by the explosion of rock on the surface cause collapse earthquakes in underground tunnels and mines. They are sometimes referred to as mine bursts.

The pressure generated within the rocks as a result of subsidence can trigger collapse quakes, which are especially common in karst areas or near mining activities. This type of earthquake causes the mine’s ceiling to fall, causing further tremors. Small cities with underground mines experience a lot of collapse earthquakes.

4. Induced or Explosion Earthquakes

An earthquake that is caused by the detonation of a nuclear or chemical bomb is known as an induced earthquake. Human activity, such as tunnel construction, reservoir filling, and geothermal or fracking projects, causes induced quakes.

Causes of Earthquakes

The main causes of earthquakes fall into five categories:

  • Volcanic Eruptions
  • Tectonic Movements
  • Geological Faults
  • Man-Made
  • Minor Causes

1. Volcanic Eruptions

Volcanic eruptions are the primary source of earthquakes. Such earthquakes are common in places where volcanic activity is common. When boiling lava attempts to break through the earth’s surface, the increased pressure of gases causes various movements in the crust.

Lava movement beneath the earth’s surface can potentially cause some disruptions. This causes harm by sending shockwaves into the earth. These tremors are minor. They have a limited range as well. There have been certain outliers, such as when volcanic earthquakes wreak havoc and kill thousands of people.

2. Tectonic Movements

The upper mantle is made up of plates that make up the earth’s surface. These plates are constantly shifting, causing the earth’s crust to shift. There are three types of movements: constructive, destructive, and conservative.

Constructive earthquakes occur when two plates move away from each other, and they are mild earthquakes. Destructive plate boundaries occur when two plates move towards each other and clash. This is quite harmful. Conservative refers to the crossing of crust plates. This type of earthquake has a range of magnitudes.

3. Geological Faults

The displacement of plates from their original plane is known as a geological fault. It doesn’t matter if the plane is horizontal or vertical. These planes do not emerge out of anywhere, but rather grow over time. Tectonic earthquakes are caused by the movement of rocks along these planes.

The action of geological forces causes these faults to form. The fracturing of rocks is caused by plate movement, which releases a lot of energy. This type of earthquake has the potential to be devastating.

4. Man-Made

Man’s involvement with nature may potentially be a contributing factor in the earthquake. Earthquakes can occur when the crustal balance is disrupted by heavy water clubbing in dams. Nuclear weapons can cause specific types of shockwaves to travel across the earth’s surface, disrupting tectonic plate alignment. The large removal of rocks from various regions caused by mining can also cause disruption.

Minor Causes

Small shockwaves can be caused by landslides, avalanches, the fall of massive rocks, and other minor sources. Gases beneath the earth’s surface contract and expand, causing plate motions beneath the crust. Adjustments in rock strata in the interior of the earth’s crust generate the plutonic earthquake. All of these characteristics are associated with mild earthquakes, but they can also be associated with moderate earthquakes.

Positive Effect of Earthquakes

The positive effects of earthquakes include:

  • Earthquakes form Natural Springs
  • Earthquakes form Oases and Natural Energy Sources
  • Earthquakes form Mineral Resources
  • Earthquakes create Hills, Coastal Terraces and Mountain Ranges
  • Earthquakes create Valleys
  • Earthquake helps Monitor the inside of Earth
  • Seismic Hazard Assessments for Designing Earthquake Resistant Structures

1. Earthquakes form Natural Springs

One of the positive effects of earthquakes is that they form natural springs. One of the most significant effects of earthquakes is the formation of faults. The subsurface flow of water, oil, and natural gas are influenced by these faults. When there is an earthquake, rocks are shifted.

Underground fluid conduits are created or restructured as a result of this displacement. As a result of fault movement, liquids can either percolate deeper into the ground or resurface as springs. Fault zones, for example, give rise to Barton Springs in Austin, Texas.

2. Earthquakes form Oases and Natural Energy Sources

One of the positive effects of earthquakes is that they form oases and natural energy sources. Similarly, flaws can become a part of the natural landscape. The rock materials along these faults may degrade quicker than the earth materials around them. As a result, if rivers and streams cut across them, valleys may emerge over time. The Rio Grande Rift Valley, which stretches from Colorado in the United States to Chihuahua in Mexico, is one such example.

3. Earthquakes form Mineral Resources

One of the positive effects of earthquakes is that they form mineral resources. Earthquakes also have a beneficial effect on underground mineral extraction. Mineral deposits frequently form underground as it is. When molten rocks (magma) cool or minerals in underground water crystallize, they form.

As faulting occurs, mineral deposits may clump together or become exposed. Mineral-rich fissures known as veins are important sources of precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum. As a result, earthquakes make these mineral deposits relatively inexpensive to mine.

4. Earthquakes create Hills, Coastal Terraces and Mountain Ranges

One of the positive effects of earthquakes is that they create terraces and mountain ranges. The natural landform that we observe today was produced by earthquakes that occurred over millennia. During earthquakes, the ground is raised, broken, and faulted. These processes result in the formation of hills, coastal terraces, and mountain ranges. Seismic activity, for example, can be seen in the magnificent coastal terraces of Capo Vaticano in western Calabria, Italy.

5. Earthquakes create Valleys

One of the positive effects of earthquakes is that they create valleys. In the same way, defects can become a natural part of the landscape. The earth elements near these faults may decay faster than the rock materials along with them. As a result, valleys may form over time if rivers and streams cut through them. One such example is the Rio Grande Rift Valley, which runs from Colorado in the United States to Chihuahua in Mexico.

6. Earthquake helps Monitor the inside of Earth

One of the positive effects of earthquakes is that they help monitor the inside of the Earth. Earthquakes benefit us in terms of research and comprehension. Seismic waves and faults can help us figure out what’s going on beneath the surface. Tremors around volcanoes, for example, indicate that they are about to erupt.

Similarly, we can map the Earth’s internal structure by measuring the time it takes seismic waves to travel through it. Experts also look into areas on active faults that haven’t seen an earthquake in a long time. Seismic gaps, as they are known, have the greatest potential for future large earthquakes. As a result, more accurate forecasting and community planning are now possible.

7. Seismic Hazard Assessments for Designing Earthquake Resistant Structures

One of the positive effects of earthquakes is that they can be used for designing earthquake-resistant structures. Earthquakes benefit us in terms of research and comprehension. Seismic waves and faults can help us figure out what’s going on beneath the surface. Tremors around volcanoes, for example, indicate that they are about to erupt.

Similarly, we can map the Earth’s internal structure by measuring the time it takes seismic waves to travel through it. Experts also look into areas on active faults that haven’t seen an earthquake in a long time. The places with the greatest risk of producing large earthquakes in the future are known as seismic gaps. As a result, more accurate forecasting and community planning are now possible.

Negative Effect of Earthquakes

The negative effects of earthquakes include:

  • Damage to Buildings
  • Damage to Infrastructure
  • Landslides and Rockslides
  • Floods
  • Tsunamis
  • Fires
  • Liquefaction
  • Earthquakes can lead to other Hazards
  • Earthquakes Impact on the Economy
  • Loss of Lives and Social Disruption
  • Ground Shaking
  • Surface Rupture

1. Damage to Buildings

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can damage buildings. High-magnitude earthquakes can utterly demolish structures. Because the falling effects of massive, heavy things can be harmful to humans, the major hazard during an earthquake is debris from crumbling structures. In high-magnitude earthquakes, mirrors and windows are shattered, putting people in danger.

2. Damage to Infrastructure

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can damage infrastructures. Earthquakes have the potential to take down power lines. Live wires that are exposed are hazardous because they can electrocute people or cause fires. Major earthquakes can destroy roads, gas lines, and water pipes. A broken gas pipe might cause gas to leak.

Escaped gas can cause explosions and fires that are difficult to put out. Severe shaking, on the other hand, has the potential to cause major damage to the built environment. In the same way as seismic waves

3. Landslides and Rockslides

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can cause landslides and rockslides. Large rocks and pieces of earth located uphill can be dislodged during an earthquake, causing them to roll fast down into valleys. People living downstream can be harmed or killed by landslides and rockslides.

Furthermore, earthquake vibrations compact granular soils (sand, gravel, and silt), resulting in the sinking. When the terrain is dry, slightly saturated, or saturated with high permeability, this type of ground movement is common. Flooding occurs along the sea, lakes, and river banks, posing a hazard to ports, roadways, and services. Land uplift combined with flooding can sometimes result in the formation of artificial waterfalls.

4. Floods

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can cause floods. High-magnitude earthquakes can cause dam walls to break and eventually collapse. This would cause major flooding by releasing raging waters into nearby places.

5. Tsunamis

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can cause tsunamis. A tsunami is a series of long, strong sea earthquakes caused by an earthquake or underwater volcanic explosions. A tsunami is a sequence of very lengthy waves caused by an earthquake that occurs deep under the Pacific Ocean’s surface. Large tsunamis that rise from the ocean floor are hazardous to people’s health, property, and infrastructure.

Tsunami destruction has long-term consequences that can be felt well beyond the coast. A tsunami has the potential to wipe out the whole population of a coastal area. A recent example is an earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan’s shoreline on March 11, 2011, killing more than 18,000 people.

6. Fires

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can cause fire outbreaks. Earthquake damage facts show fires caused by earthquakes are the second most common hazard. Earthquake fires start when electrical and gas lines are dislodged due to the earth’s shaking. Gas is set free as gas lines are broken and a spark will start a firestorm.

7. Liquefaction

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can cause liquefaction. The phenomenon of liquefaction occurs when the soil becomes wet and loses its strength. When high-water-content sediments are subjected to continual trembling, the water pressure stored in the sediment pores gradually rises.

The sediments eventually lose almost all of their cohesive strength and begin to behave like liquids. Built on top of this liquefied earth, buildings and other structures overturn or sink into the ground. It occurs when the pore water pressure in the ground is too high.

Sand boils are formed when sand is expelled through holes to the ground surface. When the vibrations stop and the pore water pressure drops, the sand returns to being solid. The foundations of buildings and structures become unstable, leading them to collapse or tilt.

Sea defences and wharf walls were even damaged during the Kobe earthquake. Underground tanks, bridge pilings, and pipelines may be lifted to the surface by liquefaction. Ground subsidence and slope failure can also occur across broad areas.

8. Earthquakes can lead to other Hazards

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can lead to other hazards. Disease outbreaks are possible when the built human environment is affected in this way. They occur as a result of a lack of housing, poor sanitation, and water contamination due to a clogged sewer line.

The consequences of earthquakes on the natural environment, such as floods, can sometimes result in the formation of wetlands. Disease-causing organisms may be encouraged to reproduce and spread as a result of this.

9. Earthquakes Impact on the Economy

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they affect the economy. Earthquakes, like all-natural disasters, disrupt business operations, ruin assets, and injure or kill people. All of these factors, when combined, invariably result in financial losses. During the twentieth century alone, more than 1200 global earthquakes cost more than $10 billion in economic damage.

10. Loss of Lives and Social Disruption

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can lead to loss of lives and social disruption. Similarly, earthquakes that strike unprepared communities might result in several casualties and deaths. This can happen when buildings and structures collapse due to ground shaking, or it can happen as a result of secondary impacts.

People may experience psychological anguish as a result of such situations. Some people may have to live with chronic injuries for the rest of their life. Earthquakes can cause family stress and social fabric destruction in communities as a whole.

11. Ground Shaking

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they cause the ground to shake. Earthquakes cause ground shaking as a result of their immediate effects. When these vibrations grow strong, they can displace or even break the Earth’s surface. Other risks, like liquefaction and landslides, are triggered by the shaking.

Seismic waves travelling beneath houses, roads, and other structures cause the majority of earthquake damage. As a result, a low cliff known as a fault scarp may emerge along the fault, which may extend for a considerable distance. Other hazards and sorts of damage, such as a house shifting off its foundation, are frequently caused by ground shaking.

12. Surface Rupture

One of the negative effects of earthquakes is that they can cause surface rupture. Surface rupture is the most dangerous type of earthquake hazard. Structures, roads, railways, and pipelines can be severely damaged by surface rupture, which can affect enormous amounts of land. An earthquake’s vibrations can cause ground displacement and surface rupture.

Other risks, as well as damage to roads and buildings, may result from the surface breach. The surface rupture, in this case, resulted in huge fissures and the collapse of a paved road. This could result in injuries, death, or make it difficult for people to get home or to work.

19 Effects of Earthquake on the Environment – FAQs

How do I know an area prone to Earthquake?

How you can know if you are in an earthquake-prone area is by checking the maps at the old Global seismic hazard assessment program, compiled by ETH in Zurich (index) to know if your area falls under the earthquake-prone areas.

Also, if you are close to The Mid-Atlantic ridge (an underwater line that runs down the Atlantic ocean), the Alpide belt (which stretches from the Mediterranean to Southeast Asia), and the Circum-Pacific belt (which traces along the edge of the pacific ocean and is where about 80% of all earthquakes occur), you are in an earthquake-prone area.

What is the Main Cause of an Earthquake? 

The main causes of an earthquake are Tectonic movement which is the movement of tectonic plates. Tectonic plates are constantly and slowly moving against, along, or beneath one other, yet their edges can sometimes grab and stick. Continue to move, or at the very least try to avoid the attempted movement. Fields around the edges stay together, exerting enormous pressure until the edges give way and the plates slip.

When the stress on the edge overcomes the friction, a powerful and rapid release of energy occurs, breaking the earth’s crust. This breaking sends shock waves through the ground, causing powerful vibrations or quakes. In fact, the world’s most earthquake-prone places are where geological plates collide.

Can I build a structure in an area that has experienced earthquake before?

Yes, you can but, you would have to be extra careful by making arrangements from your building design to be able to factor in earthquakes anytime soon.

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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
Let's see how we can mitigate these problems together.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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