- An earthquake occurs when rocks break and slip along a fault in the earth. Energy is released during an earthquake in several forms, including as movement along the fault, as heat, and as seismic waves that radiate out from the "source" in all directions and cause the ground to shake, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away.
- Earthquakes are caused by the slow deformation of the outer, brittle portions of tectonic plates, the earth's outermost layer of crust and upper mantle.
- Due to the heating and cooling of the rock below these plates, the resulting convection causes the adjacently overlying plates to move, and, under great stress, deform.
- The rates of plate movements range from about 2 to 12 cm per year.
- Sometimes, tremendous energy can build up within a single, or between neighbouring plates. If the accumulated stress exceeds the strength of the rocks making up these brittle zones, the rocks can break suddenly, releasing the stored energy as an earthquake.
- Earthquakes occur all over the world; however, most occur on active faults that define the major tectonic plates of the earth. Ninety per cent of the world's earthquakes occur along these plate boundaries (that represent about 10% of the surface of the earth). The "Ring of Fire" circling the Pacific Ocean, and including Canada's West Coast, is one of the most active areas in the world.
- With the present state of scientific knowledge, it is not possible to predict earthquakes and certainly not possible to specify in advance their exact date, time and location, although scientists have carried out research on a wide variety of attempted prediction methods.
- However, the rates of earthquakes in particular regions, expressed in terms of probabilities, can be usefully estimated. Canada, along with other countries, is working to minimize damage and injuries through the implementation of modern earthquake-resistant standards so people will be protected whenever and wherever an earthquake occurs.
- Earthquakes occur every day in Western Canada. Scientists at the Geological Survey of Canada office near Sidney, B.C. record and locate on average over 2,500 earthquakes each year in Western Canada.
- Some of the world's largest earthquakes have occurred in Western Canada.
- Western Canada is the most seismically active region in Canada. It consists of several discrete areas of intense earthquake activity, each corresponding to a particular plate tectonic regime.
B.C. Earthquake and Tsunami Exercise
Exercise Coastal Response is Western Canada’s first, full-scale earthquake and tsunami response is a test of the B.C. Immediate Response Plan (IRP) that outlines the steps that the Province and its partners will undertake in the immediate aftermath of a massive earthquake. The goal is to exercise elements of the IRP and strengthen relationships among and across partners and stakeholders to enhance operational co-ordination. Learn more about Exercise Coastal Response