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Street in Kobe, Japan, damaged after 1995 earthquake. Photo: Karl V. Steinbrugge Collection, Earthquake Engineering Research Center

June 2, 2004
Earth Scientists Struggle to Accurately Predict Earthquakes
As new technologies become available, scientists are learning more than ever before about the structure and properties of the Earth's crust and upper mantle -- bringing them to the brink of discoveries about earthquakes that could one day save millions of lives.

Why Quakes Occur

Earthquake damage, photo from USGSThe U.S. Geological Survey estimates that several million barely perceptible earthquakes happen every day, while larger, cataclysmic quakes routinely cause devastation. Read about what scientists now know about why earthquakes happen.

Map: Tectonic Plates

Map: Tectonic PlatesThe Earth's surface is made up of giant slabs of rock, or tectonic plates, that move at an average of several inches per year, and are the underlying cause of earthquakes. View an interactive map of the major tectonic plates.

Inside the San Andreas Fault

Aerial view of the San Andreas Fault, photo from USGSScientists are hoping that an observatory they plan to submerge in one of the world's most active faults, California's San Andreas Fault, will help yield answers to the causes of earthquakes and other questions that have perplexed them for decades.

Search for Quake-proof Buildings

Engineers repair earthquake-damaged bridgeAs scientists gain more knowledge of earthquakes, engineering principles have led to more earthquake-resistant construction. Combined with strict building codes, these techniques curtail the destruction when a major earthquake hits.

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Additional Resources

1906 San Francisco Earthquake: 100 Years Later

NOVA: Volcano's Deadly Warning

WNET: Savage Earth

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