Found this fascinating article on earthquake facts in USGS . Its Earthquakes Preparedness guide is a must read for all those visiting or living in earthquake prone zones.
Earthquake Facts: (Excerpt)
- The largest recorded earthquake in the United States was a magnitude 9.2 that struck Prince William Sound, Alaska on Good Friday, March 28, 1964 UTC.
- The largest recorded earthquake in the world was a magnitude 9.5 (Mw) in Chile on May 22, 1960.
- The earliest reported earthquake in California was felt in 1769 by the exploring expedition of Gaspar de Portola while the group was camping about 48 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Los Angeles.
- Before electronics allowed recordings of large earthquakes, scientists built large spring-pendulum seismometers in an attempt to record the long-period motion produced by such quakes. The largest one weighed about 15 tons. There is a medium-sized one three stories high in Mexico City that is still in operation.
- The average rate of motion across the San Andreas Fault Zone during the past 3 million years is 56 mm/yr (2 in/yr). This is about the same rate at which your fingernails grow. Assuming this rate continues, scientists project that Los Angeles and San Francisco will be adjacent to one another in approximately 15 million years.
- The East African Rift System is a 50-60 km (31-37 miles) wide zone of active volcanics and faulting that extends north-south in eastern Africa for more than 3000 km (1864 miles) from Ethiopia in the north to Zambezi in the south. It is a rare example of an active continental rift zone, where a continental plate is attempting to split into two plates which are moving away from one another.
- The first "pendulum seismoscope" to measure the shaking of the ground during an earthquake was developed in 1751, and it wasn't until 1855 that faults were recognized as the source of earthquakes.
- Moonquakes ("earthquakes" on the moon) do occur, but they happen less frequently and have smaller magnitudes than earthquakes on the Earth. It appears they are related to the tidal stresses associated with the varying distance between the Earth and Moon. They also occur at great depth, about halfway between the surface and the center of the moon.
- Although both are sea waves, a tsunami and a tidal wave are two different unrelated phenomenona. A tidal wave is a shallow water wave caused by the gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth. A tsunami is a sea wave caused by an underwater earthquake or landslide (usually triggered by an earthquake) displacing the ocean water
- Each year the southern California area has about 10,000 earthquakes. Most of them are so small that they are not felt. Only several hundred are greater than magnitude 3.0, and only about 15-20 are greater than magnitude 4.0. If there is a large earthquake, however, the aftershock sequence will produce many more earthquakes of all magnitudes for many months.
- Alaska is the most earthquake-prone state and one of the most seismically active regions in the world. Alaska experiences a magnitude 7 earthquake almost every year, and a magnitude 8 or greater earthquake on average every 14 years.