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Earthquakes at Convergent Plate Boundaries

Shallow- to deep-focus earthquakes occur at subduction zones and along the subducting plate.

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Deep and Massive

Deep and Massive

Credit: USGS
Source: http://www.livescience.com/39791-biggest-deep-earthquake-a-mystery.html
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Earthquakes happen where plates are forced into contact. Deep earthquakes happen at subduction zones where one plate plunges into the mantle. These deep earthquakes are large but less damaging at the surface than other types of quakes.

Amazing But True!

Credit: NASA
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24662369@N07/9035216726
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The largest deep earthquake was recorded in the sea of of Okhotsk [Figure2]

  • The largest deep earthquake ever recorded: 374 miles (600 km) deep, M 8.3. The shaking lasted around 5 minutes.
  • At the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench, the earthquake was due to subduction of the Pacific Plate beneath the North American Plate.
  • Some geologists think the plates have subdivided into microplates in this region.

Can You Apply It?

With the links below, learn more about the Sea of Okhotsk Earthquake, 2013. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is the plate tectonic setting where the earthquake epicenter is?
  2. Why was the earthquake so deep?
  3. Why are deep earthquakes less hazardous than shallower ones? Over how great a distance are they felt and why?
  4. Why is it difficult to understand how earthquakes can take place at such a great depth?
  5. How might a fluid have caused an earthquake at such a great depth?
  6. How might a mineral transformation have caused an earthquake at such a great depth? What evidence is there for this to be the right explanation?

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