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Mention the word earthquake to a Californian and it will bring fear to his eyes Every year hundreds of minor earthquakes occur on the West Coast leading residents to believe the Big One is coming Through a thorough examination of Californias major faults in general and plate tectonics fault types hazards preparedness and predictability specifically one might develop a better understanding of this natural disaster A very simple definition of an earthquake is the shaking of the earth caused by a sudden movement of rock beneath its surface More specifically an Earthquake is the vibration sometimes violent of the Earths surface that follows a release of energy in the Earths crust This energy can be generated by a sudden dislocation of segments of the crust by a volcanic eruption or even by manmade explosions NEIC Common Terms in Seismology 2 Other terms associated with an Earthquake are epicenter which is the point on the Earths surface directly above the hypocenter of an earthquake and the hypocenter which is the calculated location of the focus of an earthquake Additional terms used in this discussion are faults which are weak points in the Earths crust and the upper mantle where rock layers have ruptured and slippedseismologist a scientist who studies earthquakes and seismograph an instrument that records the motions of the earth especially earthquakes Last but not least is the Richter Scale which is a system used to measure the strength of an earthquake Developed by Charles Richter in 1935 as a means of categorizing local earthquakes It is a collection of mathematical formulas it is not a physical device 5 To fully understand the cause of earthquakes it is necessary to understand the plate tectonic theory This is the theory that the Earths outer layer is made up of plates which have moved throughout history The theory explains the how and why behind mountains volcanoes and earthquakes Exactly what drives plate tectonics is not known
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