Just as in the case of volcanoes, the occurrences of earthquakes strongly
correlate with plate boundaries. Earthquakes occur on all types of plate bound-
aries; however, subduction zones and areas of continental collision are noted
for their very large earthquakes. Large earthquakes also occur in plate inte-
riors but with a much lower frequency.
Earthquakes are associated with displacements on preexisting faults. A
typical displacement in a very large earthquake is 10 m. If the relative ve-
locity across a plate boundary is 50 mm yr−1, it would take 200 years to
accumulate this displacement. Large earthquakes at subduction zones and
major transform faults such as the San Andreas reoccur in about this pe-
riod. Since regular displacements do not have to be accommodated in plate
interiors, the period between major intraplate earthquakes is much longer.
The near-surface expressions of major faults are broad zones of fractured
rock with a width of a kilometer or more. Smaller faults may
have zones of fault gouge with widths of a few centimeters or less.
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