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Omar Baltazar

Geology 101

Professor Weeraratne

7 December, 2016

Convergent Plate Boundaries Create the Largest Earthquakes

Earthquakes are instantaneous, naturally occurring disasters that have potential ranging

from a small, short shake in your house, to a large and aggressive shake that can cause a great

amount of damage to streets, sidewalks, buildings, etc. They are caused by tectonic plates that

make up the continental crust of the Earth. These tectonic plates are constantly moving at an

incredibly slow rate of a few centimeters per year. Dont be fooled by the slow rate of these

plates, their collision can be catastrophic. Earthquakes are essentially hard to predict with

precision.

The area in which different plates meet are called plate boundaries where these plates

can move either past each other, away from each other, or (as in convergent plate boundaries)

collide against each other. At a convergent plate boundary, tectonic plates move towards each

other and collide until one of the plates subducts into the larger, denser plate. This process

releases a huge amount of energy, causing an Earthquake.

My hypothesis is that these Convergent plate boundaries are responsible for consistently

causing the greatest Earthquakes. In an article by DL Anderson, Anderson explains briefly how

these convergent plate earthquakes are measured and mentions they are great. He also goes on to

say that they occur during short periods of time, separated into different sequence. These

Earthquakes do not just strike us once, but they have a huge aftershock, or in some cases, many

aftershocks.
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Earthquakes are clearly dangerous and have been known to cause much damage to our

society in a structural sense. However, they can also be the means of other geological structures

forming. For example, convergent plate Earthquakes not only release a huge amount of energy

immediately, but they also help form volcanoes. Thats right, volcanoes. An article by Michael J.

Carr explains the relationship between volcanic activity and Earthquakes. Although convergent

plate subductions may cause these volcanoes, Carr notes the activity of volcanoes having a

correlation with large strike-slip Earthquakes. These Earthquakes also have a large amount of

energy released into the Earth and also have much potential for damage.

Compared to the Earthquakes caused by convergent plate boundaries, strike slip, or

transform, plate boundary Earthquakes can cause quite a large amount of damage while releasing

a similar amount of energy. However, it seems as if convergent plate boundaries are more

consistent with great Earthquakes. Transform Earthquakes release much energy and cause much

damage, but not all Transform Earthquakes will remain consistent with the amount of energy

they release. Thats not to say that every convergent plate boundary is catastrophic, but they

seem to be more consistent with Earthquakes of a greater magnitude.

In the end, I have concluded that both Transform plate boundaries, where plate tectonics

pass each other, and convergent plate boundaries, where plates collide and one is forced to

subduct under the other, release a large amount of energy, resulting in an Earthquake of great

magnitude. However, data shows that convergent plate Earthquakes are more consistent with

great Earthquakes whereas Transform Plate Earthquakes are not as consistent. My hypothesis

was almost correct. I must note the detail that they are more consistent, because Transform Plate

Earthquakes are amongst the greatest.


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Works Cited

Anderson, D. Accelerated Plate Tectonics. Science, 187.4181 (1975):

Carr, Michael. Volcanic Activity and Great Earthquakes at Convergent Plate Margin.

Science, 197.4304 (1977): 655-657