Alaska’s Earthquakes:Where Beauty Meets Disaster

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It is no surprise to Earth Scientists that Alaska sees so many earthquakes annually. With two tectonic plates meeting under a subduction zone there is bound to be a great deal of seismic activity. There is a long history of quakes, some taking several lives, that has become a lifestyle more than an occurrence. Alaska has one of the most beautiful landscapes and one of the most dangerous natural disasters that occur all too often. With the help of many different state and government agency’s the safety of the residence is a first priority. Let’s take a closer look at exactly why, where, how and when these quakes occur.        

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The state is located on top of two of many tectonic plates. The Pacific Oceanic plate consists of dense oceanic basalt rock. The North American plate is comprised of a more buoyant felic composition. Where the two meet off the coast of Alaska is known as a subduction zone where the oceanic plate is sinking under the continental plate. Every year the Pacific plate pushes a few inches towards Alaska which sits on top of the North American plate. The friction of the movement of these two is what causes consistent quakes. (1) Every year the vast landscape experiences approximately twenty-thousand earthquakes. It is estimated that one thousand of these quakes do not register on the richter scale. Annually they expect to see a great deal of seismic activity. They experience what sociologists call a great quake of above a magnitude 8 about every 13 years. A magnitude ranging from a 7 to 8 is expected to happen once a year. A size 6 to 7 magnitude is seen about six times per year. The 5 to 6 range is felt around forty-five times in a year. Astonishingly a 4 to 5 magnitude is experienced approximately three hundred and twenty times a year. (2) There is no way to predict when and where an earthquake will happen. Scientists rely on history to predict when and where there is a possibility of another quake. There was no way to know that the Great earthquake of 1964 known as The Good Friday Earthquake ( which was recorded as a 9.2 magnitude would occur. This quake took 139 lives, the most in the recorded history of Alaska. The effects were felt all the way to the southern U.S. This quake caused tsunamis in both Hawaii and Japan. (3)        

The 1964 quake gave rise to new safety measures across the state. The Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission (ASHCA) provides an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature in order to stay current on safety measures. There are areas of the state that is strongly advised not to be developed on due to the amount of activity. The advisory warning is not always followed and lives are still lost because of it. Buildings are reinforced with a stronger foundation and stronger support to withstand the normality of the quakes. (4)       

 Education is key to safety. The Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (DHSEM) ( advises that people maintain an emergency supply of food for a minimum of 48 hours at all times in the home. The schools practice drop, cover and hold drills in order to keep kids safe. They educate property managers on how to handle maintaining of the buildings in the event of gas, electric, water and structural damage. They also offer education on how to prepare the elderly and handicapped when disaster strikes.  (5)

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Alaska’s Earthquakes:Where Beauty Meets Disaster. (2019, Aug 08). Retrieved December 3, 2022 , from

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