Professor explains the science of an earthquake - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Professor explains the science of an earthquake

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- In the last year and half we've reported several major earthquakes. One in Haiti, one in Chili, and now one in Japan. They aren't that uncommon, in fact, there are bout 700 earthquakes a year. But experts say this mornings earthquake in Japan was 700 times more powerful than the one that hit Haiti last year.

Deep underground, on the Loras College campus, sits Iowa's first seismograph. Since 1961 it's been detecting quakes across the world.

"We can look at things like, how long did it take for an earthquake in Japan or Chili or Haiti to get here to Dubuque," Loras College professor Dan Neebel said.

Friday's quake in Japan didn't make it here because the group is in the middle of a software upgrade. But Neebel said there is no doubt in his mind that it would have shown up here.

"And so what's happened there is some of the plates are shifting and one of the plates has moved on top of the other, pushing it down, also volcano's that are boiling up," Neebel said.

He's describing what happens during an earthquake. Plates under the surface of the earth shift and that creates movement above. But after a quake, comes the threat of a tsunami.

"I think if you can imagine a plate moving that's underneath some water. So if you're doing dishes in the sink and you move a plate the surface moves also," Neebel said.

And that poses a threat to any nearby coastlines. Unfortunately after an earthquake and a tsunami, there is still a threat of an aftershock.

"After a large shift you can imagine there would be some unrest. Some things wouldn't get in a comfortable position they want to be in so there would be some smaller shifts later on."

History shows there tends to be several aftershocks following an earthquake of this magnitude, there have been more than 100. And Friday afternoon a second earthquake hit Japan, this one was a 6.6 magnitude. This wasn't an aftershock, but a separate quake on another side of the island.

You can find a link to some of the achieved earthquakes on the Loras website.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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