Archive for Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More quakes? No, just more people

March 9, 2010

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First the ground shook in Haiti, then Chile and now Turkey. The earthquakes keep coming hard and fast this year, causing people to wonder if something sinister is happening underfoot.

It’s not.

While it may seem as if there are more earthquakes occurring, there really aren’t. The problem is what’s happening above ground, not underground, experts say.

More people are moving into megacities that happen to be built on fault lines, and they’re rapidly putting up substandard buildings that can’t withstand earthquakes, scientists say.

And around-the-clock news coverage and better seismic monitoring make it seem as if earthquakes are ever-present.

“I can definitely tell you that the world is not coming to an end,” said Bob Holdsworth, a tectonics expert at Durham University in northern England, referring to the number of quakes.

A 7.0 magnitude quake last month killed more than 230,000 people in Haiti. Less than two weeks ago, an 8.8 magnitude quake — the fifth-strongest since 1900 — killed more than 900 people in Chile. And on Monday, a strong pre-dawn 6.0 magnitude quake struck rural eastern Turkey, killing at least 51 people.

On average, there are 134 earthquakes a year that have a magnitude between a 6.0 and 6.9, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This year has seen 40 so far — more than in most years for that time period. But that’s because the quake in Chile generated a large number of strong aftershocks.

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