Russian Earthquake Could Be Deepest Ever

The massive earthquake that hit Russia on Friday could be the deepest ever recorded. The quake registered at 8.2 on the Richter scale and was located near Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

The earthquake was located 378 miles below the seafloor, according to initial data. However, the initial depth could change after scientists have a chance to review more data.

The previous record for the deepest earthquake ever recorded was in Bolivia in 1994. The record-holding tremors registered at 8.2 on the Richter scale and were 293 miles deep into the Earth.

So, why was Friday’s Russian earthquake so deep? The incredible quake can be explained by the unique subduction zone under the Sea of Okhotsk, where the tremors occurred. The sea sits on top of the region where the Pacific Plate is continually diving under the North America Plate.

The rate, eight centimeters per year, doesn’t seem like much to us. But to the massive, normally slow-moving tectonic plates, it is actually quite quick. Because of this, portions of the oldest Pacific crust are still cold when they reach the Earth’s scorching hot mantle. Like a cold rock hitting a hot bonfire, the rocks can explode, resulting in extremely deep earthquakes.

And the deeper the earthquake is, the farther it tends to be felt. Which is why the shaking, which lasted for about five minutes, was felt as far as Moscow, an incredible 4,000 miles away. The waves also crossed the United States, though they likely weren’t felt by humans.

Russia also felt several smaller quakes before Friday’s massive tremors. However, the precursors were much more shallow. In the coming days, scientists hope to research more about the earthquakes to see if the shallow swarm and the much deeper large quake are related in any way.

The Okhotsk quake, along with the Bolivian quake in 1994, continue to reshape geologists’ ideas about how earthquakes can happen so deep into the Earth’s crust.

[Image via ShutterStock]