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Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Fault: a break in the Earth’s crust. Blocks of the crust slide past each other along fault lines. When rocks that are under stress suddenly break, a series of ground vibrations is set off. These vibrations are known as earthquakes .

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  • Fault: a break in the Earth’s crust.

  • Blocks of the crust slide past each other along fault lines.

  • When rocks that are under stress suddenly break, a series of ground vibrations is set off.

  • These vibrations are known as earthquakes.

  • Earthquakes are occurring all the time.

Focus epicenter
Focus & Epicenter

  • The point beneath the surface where the rocks break and move is called the focus. The focus is the underground origin of an earthquake.

  • Directly above the focus, on the Earth’s surface is the epicenter. Earthquake waves reach the epicenter first. During an earthquake, the most violent shaking is found at the epicenter.


  • Seismologists study earthquakes. They can determine the strength of an earthquake by the height of the wavy line recorded on the paper.

  • The seismograph record of waves is called a seismogram.

  • The Richter scale is used to calculate the strength of an earthquake.

The richter scale
The Richter Scale

  • Used by scientists to quantify the amount of energy released by an earthquake.

  • Magnitude: The measure of the energy released by an earthquake.

  • The scale goes from 1.0 to 10.0.

  • Each increase of magnitude by one whole number is ten times greater and releases 31.7 times more energy than the whole number below it.

The seismograph
The Seismograph

  • A weight attached to a spring remains nearly still even when the Earth moves. A pen attached to the weight records any movement on a roll of paper on a constantly rotating drum. The drum moves with the Earth and affects the line.


  • Earthquakes which occur on the ocean floor produce giant sea waves called tsunamis. Tsunamis can travel at speeds of 700 to 800 km per hour. As they approach the coast, they can reach heights of greater than 20 meters.


  • A volcano is a mountain built from magma.

  • Magma: melted rock that found beneath the surface of the earth (called lava when above earth’s surface)

  • Located near tectonic plate boundaries where plates are sliding or separating from one another.

  • May occur on the land or under sea.

Volcanic eruptions
Volcanic Eruptions

  • A volcano erupts when the pressure of the magma inside becomes so great that it blows open the solid surface of the volcano.

  • Some volcanoes have magma flowing out of them all the time so the pressure never builds up and they never erupt.

Local effects of volcano eruptions
Local Effects of Volcano Eruptions

  • Volcanic eruptions can be devastating to local economies and can cause great human loss.

  • Clouds of hot ash, dust, and gases can flow down the slope of a volcano up to 200 km/hour and sear everything in their path.

  • Volcanic ash can mix with water and produce a mudflow.

  • Ash that falls to the ground can cause buildings to collapse, bury crops, damage engines, and cause breathing problems.

Types of volcanoes
Types of Volcanoes

  • Different types of volcanic eruptions form different types of volcanoes.

  • Cinder cones

  • Shield volcanoes

  • Composite volcanoes

Global effects of volcano eruptions
Global Effects of Volcano Eruptions

  • Can change Earth’s climate for several years.

  • Clouds of volcanic ash and sulfur-rich gases can reach the upper atmosphere. **Iceland

  • Ash and gas spread across the planet and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface.

  • Reduced sunlight can result in a decrease in the average global temperature over a period of several years.

Ecological functions of earthquakes and volcanoes
Ecological Functions of Earthquakes and Volcanoes

  • Movement of the tectonic plates is an important part of recycling the planet’s crust.

  • This helps form mineral deposits and promote and sustain life.

  • Volcanic eruptions have played a key role in forming the atmosphere and climate of the Earth.

Cinder cones
Cinder Cones

  • Volcanoes made mostly of cinders and other rock particles that have been blown into the air are called cinder cones. Cinder cones form from explosive eruptions. Because the material is loosely arranged, the cones are not high. The have a narrow base and steep sides such as Paricutin in Mexico.

Shield volcanoes
Shield Volcanoes

  • Volcanoes composed of quiet flows are called shield volcanoes. Because it is rummy, the lava flows over a large area. After several eruptions, a dome-shaped mountain is formed such as Mauna Loa (4km over sea level) in the Hawaiian Islands.

Composite volcanoes
Composite Volcanoes

  • Volcanoes built up of alternating layers of rock particles and lava are called composite volcanoes. During the formation of a composite volcano, a violent eruption first occurs, hurling volcanic bombs, cinder and ash out of the vent. Then a quiet eruption, produces lava flow that covers the rock particles. After alternating eruptions, a cone-shaped mountain forms such as Mount Vesuvius.

Mount vesuvius1
Mount Vesuvius

  • Images of victims in eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Most died as a result of suffocation.


  • There is often a funnel-shaped pit or depression at the top of a volcanic cone. This pit is called a crater. If the crater becomes very large as a result of the collapse of its walls, it is called a caldera. A caldera may also form when the top of a volcano explodes or collapses.

Volcanic activity
Volcanic Activity

  • Volcanoes are rather unpredictable . Some erupt regularly, others have not erupted in modern history. Scientists classify them as active, dormant or extinct.

Active volcanoes
Active Volcanoes

  • An active volcano is one that erupts wither continually or periodically such as Mount Katmai in Alaska and Mount St. Helens in the Cascade Range.

Dormant volcano
Dormant Volcano

  • A volcano that has been known to erupt within modern times but is now inactive is classified as a dormant volcano. Mount Rainier in Washington state are example of dormant volcanoes in the United States.

Extinct volcano
Extinct Volcano

  • A volcano not known to have erupted within modern history is classified as an extinct volcano. They have been worn away almost to the level of their magma chamber. Scientists can be wrong. Mount St. Helens was considered to be dormant but erupted after long periods of inactivity.

Volcano and earthquake zones
Volcano and Earthquake Zones

  • Most major earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in three zones of the world. Scientists believe that there is a great deal of movement and activity in the Earth’s crust in these three zones.

Ring of fire
Ring of Fire

  • One major earthquake and volcano zone extends nearly all the way around the edge of the Pacific Ocean. This zone goes through New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Alaska and along the western coasts of North and South America. The San Andreas fault is part of this zone.

Mediterranean zone
Mediterranean Zone

  • A second Major earthquake and volcano zone is located near the Mediterranean Zone and extends across Asia into India. Many countries in the zone, including Italy, Greece and Turkey, have violent earthquakes. Many volcanic eruptions also occur in this zone.

Mid atlantic ridge zone
Mid-Atlantic Ridge Zone

  • The third major earthquake and volcano zone extends through Iceland and to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. There is under the ocean a long range of volcanic mountains called the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Range. Scientists believe that the volcano and earthquake activity are due to the formation of new parts of the Earth’s crust along the ridge. The volcanic island of Iceland is part of this zone.