Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On: Historical Earthquakes Quiz


By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

We like to speculate about the "Big One," when California will fall into the ocean. But let's not forget the real (and allegorical) quakes that have already shaken us up. Take this quiz to see how much you know about them.

Where did the largest earthquake of the 20th century happen?

The 9.5 magnitude temblor, known as the "great Chilean earthquake," struck off the coast of south central Chile on May 22, 1960, and left 1,655 dead, 3,000 injured, 2 million homeless and $550 million of damage. Its subsequent tsunami caused 61 deaths and $75 million damage in Hawaii, 138 deaths and $50 million of damage in Japan, 32 deaths and more missing people in the Philippines and $500,000 damage to the U.S. West Coast. The rupture zone was a little longer than 621 miles (999 kilometers), reaching from Lebu to Puerto Aisen, Chile.


Which location is believed to be the site of the deadliest earthquake in the world's history?

A death toll between 820,000 and 830,000 makes the 8 magnitude (estimated) earthquake that hit Shaanxi, China, on Jan. 23, 1556, the deadliest known earthquake in Earth's history.


True or false: San Francisco is moving toward Los Angeles at the same speed at which your fingernails grow.

Because of movement of the San Andreas Fault zone, San Francisco and Los Angeles are getting closer together at the rate of about two inches (5 centimeters) every year, which is about the same rate as your fingernails.


One of the most damaging earthquakes on the East Coast happened where?

On Sept. 1, 1886, Charleston, South Carolina, experienced a 7.3 magnitude earthquake.


What caused most of the casualties of the Great Tohuku earthquake in Japan?

A subsequent tsunami caused most of the casualties of the Great Tohuku earthquake.


Where was the epicenter of the Great Kanto earthquake?

The epicenter of the Great Kanto earthquake, which killed 142,800 people, was just outside Tokyo.


An estimated 3,000 people died and 200,000 people (about half the city's population) were left homeless when a 7.7-7.9 magnitude quake devastated which U.S. city on April 18, 1906?

San Francisco was hit with the powerful quake.


What type of structure is the most vulnerable to the ground-shaking of an earthquake?

Brick buildings without steel reinforcements (unreinforced masonry buildings) are considered the most vulnerable to collapse during an earthquake. Nonductile concrete buildings don't fare much better.


True or false: The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the Flores Region, Indonesia, on Dec. 12, 1992, was both the largest and the deadliest quake in the world that year.

The Dec. 12, 1992, earthquake that hit the Flores Region, Indonesia, was the largest (7.8 magnitude) and deadliest (2,519 casualties) to strike that year worldwide.


What two plates meet at the San Andreas Fault?

The Pacific and North American plates meet at the San Andreas Fault. On the west side of the fault line is the Pacific Plate, where most of California's population lives. On the east side of the fault line is the North American plate.


Which is an anti-quake technology used to help keep skyscrapers standing during an earthquake?

Pendulums installed on upper floors of skyscrapers help counter the swaying motions caused by the ground-shaking of earthquakes and aftershocks by 60 percent.


How many people died when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Italy's Messina Strait devastated the cities of Messina, Sicily, and Reggio di Calabria, Italy?

Deaths were estimated between 70,000-80,000, when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Messina and Reggio di Calabria.


Which quake caused hairline cracks to form in the runways at the U.S. Coast Guard Loran Station in 1965?

An 8.7 magnitude earthquake that hit at the Alaska-Aleutian megathrust at the tip of the Aleutian Islands (Rat Islands, Alaska) caused fine cracks in the runways at the Loran Station on Attu Island.


Movement of which tectonic plates caused the 9.1 magnitude quake off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, in 2004?

One of the largest in the world, the 9.1 magnitude quake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, was caused by the Indo-Australian Plate colliding with the Burma Plate (a minor plate considered part of the major Eurasian Plate).


Which state has been struck by more earthquakes measuring magnitude 7 or greater?

Between 1812 and 2012, Alaska had 86 quakes registering magnitude 7 or greater. California, in second place, had 19; Washington had two (one in 1872 and the other in 1949).


Which nuclear power plant experienced a full meltdown after the 9.0 magnitude quake that hit 231 miles (372 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo in 2011?

In the days after the March 11 earthquake, nuclear emergencies were declared at more than one nuclear power plant, including Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini. It was the Fukushima Daiichi that experienced full meltdown.


Is there such a thing as "earthquake weather"?

Earthquakes originate underground and aren't affected by the weather. They also aren't affected by the time of day — it's a myth that big earthquakes happen in the morning.


Which is NOT a type of earthquake-resistant engineering?

Both shock absorbers and seismic "invisibility" cloaking (vibrating barriers) are used to reduce the effect of a quake's vibrations on buildings.


How far did the 9.0 magnitude Tohoku-Oki that hit northeast of Tokyo in 2011 move Honshu, Japan's main island?

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 9 magnitude quake that hit Japan in 2011 moved Honshu 8 feet.


Can an earthquake change Earth's rotation?

Yes, powerful ones can, but you won't notice. For instance, the Tohoku-Oki quake that hit Japan in 2011 shortened the length of an Earth day by about 1.8 microseconds.


True or false: The 9.0 magnitude Tohoku-Oki earthquake that hit Japan in 2011 changed the way gravity works.

The earthquake was strong enough to alter gravity. Scientists detected that the 9.1-9.3 magnitude Sumatra-Andaman quake in 2004 and the 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile in 2010 both reduced gravity fields in areas affected by the quakes.


Can an earthquake shift Earth's figure axis?

It's estimated the 2011 Tohoku-Oki 9.0 magnitude earthquake, for instance, shifted the position of Earth's figure axis by about 6.5 inches (17 centimeters). Similarly, the 2004 Sumatran 9.1 magnitude earthquake was powerful enough to shift the figure axis by about 2.76 inches. Remember, our planet's mass is balanced around the figure axis, which is different than Earth's north-south axis.


Earthquakes under what magnitude usually DON'T trigger tsunamis?

Seismic activity caused by quakes below magnitude 7 usually don't trigger tsunamis.


Where do about 90 percent of the world's earthquakes happen?

As many as 90 percent of the world's earthquakes happen in the Circum-Pacific seismic belt, also known as the "Ring of Fire." The next most-active seismic region, causing about 5 percent of the world's quakes, is the Alpide Belt.


Which was the deadliest year for earthquakes in the 1990s worldwide?

An estimated 52,056 people died as a result of earthquakes in 1990, making it the deadliest year for earthquakes in that decade.


What city lost about two-thirds of its entire population after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck in 1948?

The former Soviet city of Ashgabat, which is now the capital of Turkmenistan, lost about 110,000 people during a 7.3 magnitude quake that struck in 1948.


A quake measuring 7.6 magnitude killed nearly 2,500 people and caused damage to every town on what island?

On Sept. 21, 1999, a 7.6 magnitude quake caused damage to every town in Taiwan and can be blamed for nearly 2,500 deaths.


True or false: A powerful earthquake on one side of the world can affect fault zones worldwide.

Scientists suspected a link between powerful earthquakes triggering global seismic activity, but it wasn't until 2004 when their research showed the first direct evidence.


Of the roughly 500,000 earthquakes that strike around the world each year, how many are strong enough to be felt by people?

Out of the roughly 500,000 that are detected by instruments sensitive to seismic activity, about 100,000 quakes are felt by people. (Only about 100 or so will cause damage.)


True or false: Earth's midsection became more elongated after the 9.0 (plus) magnitude earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004.

Earth's midsection actually became more round after the earthquake struck Indonesia in 2004.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!