Earthquakes

School seismology logo

Earthquakes are one the world's most deadly natural hazards. Large earthquakes often strike without warning in areas of high population density, which can lead to catastrophic events.

Seismology is the study of earthquakes and seismic waves. The BGS Earthquake Seismology Team is the UK's national earthquake monitoring agency. We operate a network of sensors across the UK to monitor both British and overseas earthquakes.  

We use the data we collect to investigate the nature and distribution of earthquake activity, and what makes them happen, to improve our understanding of earthquake hazard. 

We also use the seismic waves from earthquakes to image the interior of the Earth and develop models of the structure of the Earth.

Earthquakes: how, why, where and when?

BGS earthquake website

But what is an earthquake, what causes earthquakes and why do they happen?

Where do earthquakes occur around the world and how do they affect buildings, which can lead to loss of life?

Seismology has advanced since the historical stories where earthquakes were thought to be caused by restless gods or giant creatures slumbering beneath the Earth, but can we predict earthquakes?

Working with earthquake data

Seismometers are the sensors that we use to detect, and locate earthquakes.

By analysing a seismograph we can locate an earthquake and calculate its magnitude or intensity against a scale.

School seismology

A slinky seismometer

The BGS School Seismology project provides online resources to enable schools to detect signals from large earthquakes happening anywhere in the world.

Teachers and students working with earthquake data can learn a range of basic science concepts using the resources provided here, such as:

School Seismology offers lots of learning opportunities via simple classroom activities that help explain the basic concepts.

Extension projects include designing and building a seismometer or learning how to programme datalogging software using Python for a Raspberry Pi.

British Science Week: 'Make your own earthquake'.