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Earthquakes can send skyscrapers toppling to the ground or tsunamis surging over the coastline. These movers and shakers are proof that we live on a dynamic planet that sometimes experiences growing pains on a colossal scale.

Earthquake Facts

  • Plates of the earth’s crust can move as slowly a millimeter a week—which is about the same as the growth rate of the human fingernail.
  • The energy release of the Indian Ocean earthquake of 2004 (9.3 on the Richter Scale) was equivalent to 23,000 times that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
  • It’s a myth! Dogs and other animals can not predict earthquakes.

Earthquake Images

This exhibition and its national tour were developed by The Field Museum, Chicago

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1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

A collapsed house crushed a car in the Marina District of San Francisco, one of the areas worst hit by an earthquake estimated at 6.9 on the Richter scale that rocked California on October 17, 1989.

© Adam Teitelbaum/AFP/Getty Images ×

Reverse Fault

There are different types of faults. Pictured are the results of a reverse fault: the rock below the fault has slipped down while the rock above has moved up.

© United States Geological Survey ×


When rocks at a fault snap and suddenly move, the sudden release of energy produces seismic waves that travel through rocks just as waves move through water

© Adam Teitelbaum/AFP/Getty Images ×


Scientists in 1906 knew about the great gash in the California ground called the San Andreas Fault, but they didn't understand its relationship to earthquakes.

The San Francisco Quake of 1906 changed all that, and scientists rallied to the fault to be better prepared for the next earthquake.

© Adam Teitelbaum/AFP/Getty Images ×


On December 26, 2004, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded unleashed a colossal tsunami. People fled as the wave came crashing ashore at Koh Raya, part of Thailand's territory in the Andaman Islands.

© John Russell/AFP/Getty Images ×


A seismometer detects the seismic waves in the ground. When disaster struck San Francisco in 1906, there were fewer than 100 seismometers operating around the world. Today, there are thousands

© Courtesy of the Lapworth Museum of Geology, University of Birmingham, UK ×