Questions for ‘What can ‘silent earthquakes’ teach us about the next Big One?’

a mosque destroyed after an earthquake, several kids stand to the left

Earthquakes can be devastating, such as the magnitude-8.6 event on March 28, 2005. It struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, toppling buildings, such as this mosque. Slow-slip events, a type of silent quake, can last for years. Scientists are now investigating how these two types of quakes might be related.

Ian Waldie/Staff/ Getty Images News

To accompany “What can ‘silent earthquakes’ teach us about the next Big One?”


Before Reading:

1.  What is an earthquake? What causes an earthquake?

2.  What are tectonic plates? What role do they play in earthquakes?

During Reading:

1.  What are two other names for a “slow-slip event”? And what do these terms refer to?

2.  What can happen when two tectonic plates that have been stuck together finally become unstuck?

3.  What are two differences between regular earthquakes and slow-slip events?

4.  What is a subduction zone? Name one location where you can find a subduction zone.

5.  Why don’t slow-slip events show up on seismometers?

6.  How can scientists use GPS to detect slow-slip events?

7.  How did Rishav Mallick and his team detect the slow-slip event that occurred in Sumatra in the early 1800s?

8.  What is one reason that scientists think that slow-slip events and powerful earthquakes might be related?

9.  Why is it difficult for scientists to detect slow-slip events deep in the ocean?

After Reading:

1.  Read more about the 2011 earthquake in Japan. What type of damage did that quake cause? How could a warning that a big quake was expected by say, a week, change how people there prepared for such an event? What damage might have been avoided? What damage would still have occurred?

2.  If you live in an earthquake-prone area, create a plan for what to do if a big quake hits. How would you keep yourself safe during the shaking? What should you do to your house to prepare? What should go in your earthquake-preparedness kit? (Check out these resources from the U.S. Geological Survey before you start planning.)