Is this feasible via an earthquake? correctly - however perhaps not in the means you might think. Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock

By Robin Andrews11 Jun 2017, 21:09

An amazing question come up in a discussion around earthquakes freshly – namely, could one ever before be an effective enough to fracture the planet, or even completely break that apart? Well, brief answer, no, yet this is a surprisingly complex question come answer, however let’s take a look in ~ the scientific research to view how feasible this kind of apocalypse yes, really is.

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First off, let’s just remind ourself what reasons an earthquake and also just exactly how ludicrously energetic they space at your worst. There space so many different methods to get earthquakes, but for the benefits of simplicity, fine stick to the most typical for now.

You’ve obtained fault networks prefer the mountain Andreas complex, i beg your pardon has developed at the point where the Pacific bowl is moving northwards v respect come the phibìc American Plate. This form of tectonic margin is referred to as a “transform” boundary, and it tends to produce an extremely shallow and also damaging earthquakes.

Then you’ve obtained two bowl coming with each other to collide. On these “convergent” boundaries, among two things happens: one of two people the denser plate sink beneath the other one and gets damaged in the mantle (see: Japan Trench) or they both smash right into each other and rise up to form a mountain variety (see: Himalayas).

In the case of the former, you get deep-seated earthquakes, and also in terms of the latter, they are at middling-to-shallow depths. Through some exceptions, this are just how earthquakes are created on Earth, so how an effective can they get?

A map of the tsunami generated by the world"s most powerful earthquake. Every contour to represent one hour of take trip time. NOAA

Here are the top five most an effective earthquakes ~ above record, in ascending order:

5 – Kamchatka, former Soviet Union: 9.0M (November 4, 1952) on a convergent boundary along the Kuril-Kamchatka trench. It produced a disastrous tsunami, and over 2,300 civilization perished.

4 – Tohoku region, turn off the eastern shore of Japan: 9.1M (March 11, 2011) ~ above a convergent boundary along the Japan Trench between the Okhotsk and Pacific Plates. The tsunami was among the deadliest in person history, killing approximately 20,000 people.

3 – Sumatra, Indonesia: 9.2M (December 26, 2004) top top a convergent boundary where the Indian plate slides beneath the Burma Plate. Scary fact: in ~ one point, the rupture was relocating 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) per second, which equals speeds of 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) every hour. The result tsunami resulted in up come a quarter of a million deaths.

2 – Prince wilhelm Sound, Alaska: 9.2M (March 27, 1964) on a convergent boundary along the Aleutian Trench. Regardless of a an effective tsunami, simply 30 or so human being died.

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1 – Valdivia, Chile: 9.5M (May 22, 1960) top top a convergent boundary between the diminish Nazca Plate and also the south American Plate. It likewise produced a colossal, Pacific Ocean-wide tsunami, but “only” 1,000-6,000 human being died.