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Earthquakes and Our Society



Earthquakes and Our Society
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.37

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    earthquake-hazard, seepage, foreshocks, epicenter, best, earthquake-prone, seismologists, seismic, electrify, undersea, floodwaters, relatively, geology, inaccurate, intensity, unreliable
     content words:    United States, San Andreas Fault, Loma Prieta


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Earthquakes and Our Society
By Trista L. Pollard
  

1     For anyone who has experienced an earthquake, the experience can be frightening and traumatic. In addition to the movement of the ground, people need to be concerned with collapsing buildings and falling debris, such as flying glass. The majority of the injuries and deaths that occur from earthquakes are due to falling objects and structures. The effects of an earthquake can also cause dangerous landslides, fires, gas line and electric explosions, and floodwaters from collapsing dams. The goal of seismologists is to understand why earthquakes and other seismic activity occur on Earth. This information, when shared with people in earthquake-prone areas, can help decrease the number of deaths and injuries that may occur.
 
2     One of the most destructive effects of earthquakes are tsunamis. Tsunamis, giant ocean waves, form after an earthquake has occurred on the ocean floor. If the tsunami crashes into land, it may cause serious destruction. The difficulty with protecting people from tsunamis is that they may come without warning and at an extremely high speed. Once undersea earthquakes occur, the ocean floor rises or sinks. This is when tsunamis may begin to form. Along with this shifting of the ocean floor, there is also a large mass of seawater that may drop or rise. To adjust to the sudden change in sea level, the mass of water moves upward or downward. As it is moving, a series of long, low waves begin to moves from the point of the epicenter outward. These waves will increase in height as they come closer to the shore. Underwater landslides caused by earthquakes may also form tsunamis.
 
3     On land, the focus of an earthquake's destruction is usually buildings and property. Most of the buildings today are built using strict building codes. These codes require that the buildings can withstand the swaying motion of the ground during an earthquake. However, there are buildings with weak walls that may collapse completely during a quake. Extremely tall buildings, like skyscrapers, may sway so violently that they may tip over and cause damage to lower structures nearby. One factor that affects the intensity of an earthquake is the local geology. The type of land that is beneath buildings can determine the way the buildings respond to an earthquake. Buildings on solid ground are more likely to withstand an earthquake than buildings that are constructed on loose soil and rock. Loose rock and soil vibrate as if they were jelly. When buildings are constructed on this type of land, they tend to have an exaggerated motion and to sway violently.

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