Did the Earth Move for You?

Did the Earth Move for You?

12th March 2018

While most of the UK news in the past few weeks has been dealing with the severe weather we’ve been experiencing, we’ve also seen two very unusual occurrences in the space of just a few weeks.  We’re talking about the two recent earthquakes, both of which were relatively severe compared with what we’re used to here in the UK.  The UK doesn’t suffer from regular earthquakes as we’re not situated on or near a tectonic plate border or major fault line – areas where earthquakes are usually frequent and sometimes incredibly powerful.  The UK, along with most of northern Europe is located on the Eurasian Plate which covers the area from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to western Russia. 

However, every year, several hundred earthquakes are detected on or around the UK, but most of these are much to faint to be felt.  The strongest recorded earthquake in Britain took place in 1931 in Dogger Bank and had a magnitude of 6.1 on the Richter scale.  Because the epicentre was miles of the coast, very little damage occurred, much less than had the epicentre been on the mainland. 

The first of the recent earthquakes felt in the UK occurred on the 17th of February on the outskirts of Swansea in Wales.  It measured 4.6 on the Richter scale, which is unusually strong for seismic activity here in the UK.  It was certainly felt by people all over the country and social media erupted with wry memes that showcased our unique and understated sense of humour.  Some canny business owners even had limited edition earthquake survivor t-shirts printed.  The earthquake hit the headlines around the UK, with pundits pontificating on what a rarity it is to actually feel any seismic activity in Britain.  Within a couple of week, the ground beneath our feet was surprising us again, this time with an earthquake in Cumbria measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale. 

We’re lucky here in the UK that earthquakes are not a regular occurrence and, that when they do occur, the activity is fairly low level and unlikely to cause any real damage.  In other parts of the world, it’s not just the severity of the earthquake which causes problems, it’s the accompanying phenomenon of a tsunami when the earthquake happens underneath the sea.  A tsunami is a large wave that results from the sudden motion of the ocean floor as a result of a landslide caused by an earthquake or the sudden eruption of an undersea volcano. 

However, here in the UK, we should be aware that we’re subject to very low-level seismic activity and that this sometimes does have an effect, although it’s often too subtle to be noticeable.  In other countries where earthquakes are more common, special measures are often taken during construction activities.  New developments in materials technology mean that earthquake proofing buildings is becoming easier and more cost effective than ever.  Next week we’re going to take a look at some of the solutions for making buildings safer during earthquakes that have come with new technologies.